Cultivars as consumer brands: Trends in protecting and commercializing apple cultivars via intellectual property rights

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For many fruit and vegetable crops, consumers are unaware of the cultivar they consume. Thus, cultivars, the ultimate products of breeding programs, have no special recognition by the consumer. Apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) is unusual in that individual cultivars are readily recognized by consumers based on their appearance, flavor and texture. Consequently, variety denominations or trademarks are used to represent cultivars as brands to consumers. Apple cultivars are asexually propagated and were historically developed from feral or planted open-pollinated seedlings. New cultivars are now mostly derived from planned breeding programs. U.S. apple breeding in the 20th century was mostly funded by state and federal government appropriations. Cultivars developed under this model were made widely available to producers as “open” cultivars. Fruit quality and quantity were difficult to control leading to devalued brand images for some cultivars and decreased profitability for producers and marketers. In response to these problems, some new apple cultivars are commercialized as “managed” cultivars using exclusive licensing of intellectual property rights to manage the cultivar’s market entry and introduction to the consumer as well as fruit quality and production volume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2504-2510
Number of pages7
JournalCrop Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


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