Coffee belongs to the botanical family Rubiaceae. There are at least 25 species of the genus Coffea, all indigenous to Africa, and some islands in the Indian Ocean. Today coffee is cultivated in some eighty countries in South and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, generally in areas lying between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The two biggest producers by far are Brazil and Colombia, followed by Indonesia, Vietnam and Mexico.

The coffee tree is a tropical evergreen shrub with two beans per fruit, which when ripe resemble a red cherry. The two most commercially important species grown are Coffea canephora (robustas) and Coffea arabica (arabicas). The latter, which accounts for 70% of the world production, grows at higher altitudes, requires less rain, and its beans have a lower caffeine content than that of robustas. Arabica coffee is highly susceptible to pests and diseases; therefore resistance is a major goal of plant breeding programs. It is grown throughout Latin America, in Central and East Africa, in India and to some extent in Indonesia. Robusta coffee is grown in West and Central Africa, throughout Southeast Asia and in Brazil. Two other species, which are grown on a much smaller scale are Coffea liberica (Liberica coffee), grown in Malaysia and in West Africa, and Coffea dewevrei (Excelsa coffee).

After oil, coffee is the most important traded commodity in the world, and is the primary export of many developing countries. More than two thirds of current world coffee production is exported from Latin America and the Caribbean, with much of the rest coming from African and Asian producers. However, most coffee is consumed in the developed world; the United States and the European Community together import two out of every three bags of coffee produced in the world.

Coffee – Independent claim

IP aspects

The Nara Institute of Science and Technology has granted patents in AustraliaUnited States, and Japan related to genetic transformation of coffee with A. tumefaciens. In the Australian granted patent there is no limitation on the species of Coffea to be transformed or on the gene to be introduced into the plants. The major limitation of the granted invention lies in the strain of A. tumefaciens used for the transformation process.

Furthermore, the patent application has only been filed in countries where coffee is not a major agricultural product, at least not at the same scale as the well-known coffee producing countries. For instance, in Australia there are only two places with commercial production. One is located in north of Queensland and the other one is in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. The production of coffee in Australia was around US$800,000 dollars worth in 1998/1999, while the world coffee trade is estimated at around US$13 billion dollars per year. Thus, the patents on the present invention will likely have very little impact for the most important coffee producers’ countries.

Specific Patent Information

Patent Number
Title, Independent Claims and Summary of Claims
US 6392125

  • Earliest priority – 28 December 1998
  • Filed – 22 December 1999
  • Granted – 21 May 2002
  • Expected expiry – 21 December 2019
Title – Method for producing the transformants of coffee plants and transgenic coffee plants

Claim 1
A method for producing a transformant of Coffea arabica, the method comprising the steps of:(a) infecting an embryogenic callus of Coffea arabica with Agrobacterium tumefaciens EHA101 strain that comprises a vector containing an exogenous gene and a gene available for the selection of transformed embryonic callus to produce a transformed embryogenic callus in a medium containing N6 -[2-isopentenyl]-adenosine,

(b) selecting said transformed embryonic callus,

(c) forming a somatic embryo from said transformed embryogenic callus and

(d) regenerating a transformed Coffea arabica from said somatic embryo.

Granted patent US 6392125 recites an Agrobacterium-mediated method to produce a transformant of Coffee arabica. The A. tumefaciensstrain is limited to EHA101.

Nara Institute of Science and Technology
AU 729635 B2

  • Earliest priority – 28 December 1998
  • Filed – 23 December 1999
  • Granted – 8 February 2001
  • Expected expiry – 22 December 2019
Title – Method for producing the transformants of coffee plants and transgenic coffee plants

Claim 1
A method for producing a transformant of a coffee plant, the method comprising the steps of:
(a) infecting an embryogenic callus of a coffee plant with Agrobacterium tumefaciens EHA101 strain comprising a vector comprising an exogenous gene to produce a transformed embryogenic callus;
(b) forming a somatic embryo from said transformed embryogenic callus; and
(c) regenerating a transformed coffee plant from said somatic embryo.

Granted patent AU 729635 does not limit the type of coffee plant to be transformed with A. tumefaciens EHA101, and there is no statement on the components of the medium used for infecting the coffee plant callus.

  1. Related application in Canada (CA 2291932) is pending.
  2. Related patent has been granted in Japan (JP 3286733) on 27 May 2002.
  3. Other related patent document  published in Switzerland (CH 694207).

Note: Patent information on this page was last updated on 14 March 2006.