Chapter 4: Mapping of Rice Patents and Patent Applications Onto the Rice Genome

CAMBIA has produced a patent landscape for the Oryza sativa genome. Our analysis included both granted U.S. patents and pending patent applications. In addition to structural genes, our study encompassed non-coding nucleotide sequences such as promoters.

This chapter shows the results of our analysis. In addition to static plots, we have incorporated the Gbrowse genome browser to enable interactive visualization of the patent and patent application sequences relative to the rice genome.


Surprisingly, only 0.26% of the rice genome is recited in the claims of granted U.S. patents.

This fraction represents the actual, non-redundant coverage of the genome by the sequences that were identified in our analysis. The analysis included all sequences recited in claims, whether they encoded proteins or not. In contrast, the Jensen and Murray analysis reported that around 20% of the coding sequences of the human genome were claimed in granted U.S. patents (Science 310: 239-240). This is a different metric than we used for determining the overall percent coverage. An approximation can be made of the fraction of coding sequences claimed in U.S. patents, however, by estimating the number of claimed coding sequences (213) and dividing by the total number of rice genes (coding sequences) (37,544 according to Nature, 2005, 436: 793-800).  Using this formula,  the percent coverage is roughly 0.57%, but still remains below 1% of the rice genome.

Patent applications show a different picture as to the fraction of the rice genome recited in claims. Due largely to “bulk sequence applications”, roughly 74% of the rice genome is recited in claims of U.S. patent applications. But due to patent examination policies in the U.S., it is unlikely that very many of these sequences will become part of the claims of granted patents.

These numbers are our best estimate based on our chosen methodologies. In some ways, they are an overcount of the number of patents that recite rice sequences in the claims, because a number of these patents and patent applications are directed at plants other than rice. Therefore, the claims may not actually encompass the rice gene. Also, some of the claims that are included in this analysis are method or product claims that don’t directly claim a rice sequence as a composition of matter.

On the other hand, the numbers presented here are an undercount because we did not include nucleotide sequences that are claimed based on the amino acid sequences that they encode. A common practice is to claim “any nucleotide sequence that encodes the amino acid sequence of SEQ ID NO:X”. This type of claim will not be picked up in our current analysis because it is an amino acid sequence rather than a nucleotide sequence that is recited in the claim. In future revisions of this landscape, we plan to incorporate amino acid claims to provide a more complete picture of the rice genome.