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May 2012 Patent Watch

The US Patent and Trademark Office in April published a total of 53 patent applications from 35 different assignees covering genetically modified plants and methods of producing them. Eleven were for input traits, including: two applications from Bayer CropScience for HPPD-inhibitor herbicide tolerant plants and its A5547-127 (LL55) glufosinate-tolerant soybeans; two filings from DuPont for its glyphosate-tolerant canola events, DP061061-7 and DP073498-4; and a joint application from BASF Plant Sciences and Embrapa concerning their CV127 AHAS-inhibitor herbicide-tolerant soybeans. There were 19 applications published that concerned output traits, including eight claiming improvements to stress tolerance or increasing yield. Methods of altering the content of GM plants, accounted for nine applications. These included three applications concerning methods of reducing the nitrogen or nornicotine content in GM tobacco. Two applications concerned methods of altering plant phenotypes. A further 22 applications concerned other aspects of biotechnology, such as newly identified promoters, expressed sequence tags or transformation methods. DuPont resumed the lead in filing activity, with 11 applications published. It was followed by BASF (eight) and Monsanto (four). One of Monsanto’s applications was a joint venture with DevGen. It concerned plants expressing dsRNA molecules that inhibit growth when ingested by corn rootworm pests. The two companies have a licensing deal concerning the use of DevGen’s RNAi technology. A further five institutions each had two applications published.

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