Introduction: Why an IP and Technology landscape on Agrobacterium-mediated transformation?

In our experience, the intellectual property landscape in biotechnology areas is often not very well understood by the research community, especially the public sector. All too often rumours and misstatements about patents are passed along from researcher to researcher. This is an unfortunate situation, however understandable. But with the increasing importance and emphasis on patents, it is becoming necessary for scientists to be versed in the field of intellectual property.

With this paper and others now present on or planned for the Patent Lens, we strive to provide a readable and understandable overview of patents in some key areas of biotechnology. In this way, we hope to contribute to the public awareness of intellectual property issues that surround these key biotechnological tools. The information in the white papers is not exhaustive, but consists of selected documents found to broadly encompass the area. To satisfy the myriad questions and issues raised by the research or the interests of each person who visits this site would require a host of attorneys and an enormous amount of time. Instead, this paper is provided in order to open the door into the patent world and furnish platform knowledge from which additional self-directed investigation can be performed.

This first technology landscape is focused on the intellectual property concerning methods and materials used for Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of plants. This transformation method is currently one of the most widely used means of making transgenic plants. Although much of the basic research and findings that led to Agrobacterium-mediated transformation was done in public institutions, the private sector now holds many of the key patent positions. The patents were obtained by the private sector either from internal research and development or from public institutions in the form of a license or occasionally as the assignee. Thus, the science and the patent positions are of high interest to both public and commercial sectors.

Technology landscapes, by their very nature, become outdated.  While this landscape contains much useful information about the broad state of the art at the time broad patents were issued (which is critically important to evaluate the ongoing constraints to use of Agrobacterium technology), some patents have lapsed and others have come into force.  The version you see here starts with a list of the updates to this landscape done in 2003, and pages updated since 2003 show the dates of new searches.  But as sections of this landscape would need constant updating, an impossibility with CAMBIA’s small team, we welcome updates and inputs by others through the comments interface available on every page of this version of the technology landscape.

For a way around the Agrobacterium patent morasse, see CAMBIA’s Transbacter project.