Protection for the originators of new plant creations

From the October 1904 issue of American Nurseryman (Vol. XII, NO. 10; October 1904, page 125):

“The exclusive rights of authors and inventors are protected by copyright and patent by the Civil Government, and this is right within reasonable limits. But the creator of new and valuable plant life has no such protection by law. This at first, seems a mistake that might be corrected, but it can hardly be reached either by patent or copyright, for things that live and grow are a law unto themselves.

Slight variations are constantly appearing among the standard varieties of fruit and other plants, and every seedling is a variation, which may or may not be of unusual value. Where could the line be drawn between two seedlings that closely resembled each other and yet were perhaps originated thousands of miles apart by different planters?

Would not a law to patent or copyright each new plant result in much injustice if it should be enforced? Would such a law tend to retard progress in selection in plant growing; for instance if a farmer produced a better fruit or grain, would he not fear to pass it around to his neighbors lest some unprincipled person should take it up, patent it, and so prevent even the discoverer or originator from using it himself.

In all newly settled places it is the kindly exchange of plants between neighbors that helps to make the world more beautiful. We see this every day in gardens and orchards. If a man has anything extra in fruits and nuts, vegetables, grains, or grasses it is not of full value to him until he has talked it over with his neighbor, and persuaded him to try it, often dividing with him his own stock.

However, no doubt, there can be some protection for the plant originator, in laws prohibiting anything in plant life being sold under wrong labels, thus preventing the nurseryman from sending out inferior stock protected by means of standard or newer varieties which have been proved of worth. The plant originator can also be protected by the names which he selects and puts upon his own productions, so that no other plant of a similar nature may be given the same name thereby confusing purchasers and defrauding the plant originator; and that his new creations sent out may not be renamed. Such laws enforced would do much to protect the plant originator as well as the buying public.”