[NAFEX] Propogating Rootstocks

dmnorton at royaloakfarmorchard.com dmnorton at royaloakfarmorchard.com
Thu Jun 4 11:58:39 EDT 2009

In our quest at Royal Oak Farm to propagate our own Geneva rootstocks, I received the following response from Dr. Jim Cummins at Cummins Nursery.  Thought it might be interesting for the list to see what's involved when grafting with patented fruit trees and rootstocks.  

"When we began the rootstock breeding program in 1968, we had anticipated open distribution and free propagation of any material that would come from that program. All of the fruiting varieties coming out of Geneva were "public varieties" and anyone could propagate freely. 
For many years, inventions from Cornell researchers in engineering, chemistry, physics, etc. were patented and exploited by Cornell; pretty important income resulted. "Cornell Research Foundation" was deeded all patentable "intellectual property" produced by Cornell research, and "intellectual property" became the property of CRF. In about 1976, Cornell administration decided that plant material coming from Cornell breeding programs was patentable "intellectual property" and proceeded to bring all Geneva (and Ithaca) output under their control. We breeders opposed this very strongly, but to no avail. 
The Geneva rootstocks became rather a pet project of CRF. The then director of CRF decided (again with our opposition) that Geneva rootstocks would be very tightly held, with propagation restricted to 10 stoolbed operators. Besides 18% royalties, each of these 10 licensed nurseries has been paying $1000./year for the privilege (raised to $1500./yr effective 2009). 
Although CRF does permit private propagation of fruiting varieties. CRF does not permit propagation of rootstocks except by these 10 licensed nurseries. CRF has 2 lawsuits underway for cases of infringement of patents. 
I wish I could encourage you on this, Dennis, but -- Frankly, it would not be prudent to propagate these Geneva stocks. The CRF administration is itching to litigate. Just isn't worth the risk."


Dennis Norton
Royal Oak Farm Orchard
Office (815) 648-4467
Mobile (815) 228-2174
Fax (609) 228-2174
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