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Calling All Farmers! Seed Sampling Prior Art for $5,000 Reward

Written by Gene Quinn
Patent Attorney & Founder of IPWatchdog, Inc.
Principal Lecturer, PLI Patent Bar Review Course
Posted: November 21, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

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Article One Partners (AOP), a leading crowdsourcing patent research firm, just published a unique call to action on its blog. In an article titled Improve Commercial Agriculture with Seed Sampling, which published on Tuesday, November 20, 2012, AOP says they are looking for “farmers, botanists, and other agricultural professionals” to submit prior art for a research study that will remain open through December 11, 2012. The study in question relates to an automated seed sampler and method of sampling seeds.

While AOP researchers will submit patents and published patent applications for some of the studies, what makes AOP unique is that with over 25,o00 active researchers around the world they have a knack for finding those hard to locate references — so called non-patent literature, or NPL for short. Typically this non-patent literature comes in the form of journal articles or a Ph.D. thesis, for example.

With so many researchers, and more than 50% having advanced degrees, you can start to understand that frequently researchers will have knowledge of an important reference at the ready with little or no searching actually required.  So a significant part of the AOP model is to push studies to highly educated individuals who may well have peculiar knowledge related to the technology being searched. That plus a little old fashion research multiplied by 25,000 leads to great results.

In this agriculture search, however, AOP is not only looking for those with superior scientific training or advanced degrees. They are also hoping to expand the universe of those who will submit information relative to the study to include many who you might not ordinarily expect would have the such peculiar or specific knowledge or expertise. This call for additional researchers seeks farmers, commercial gardeners and others to rack their brains in an effort to recall things they may have seen, which could make them $5,000 richer due to the reward money that is guaranteed to be paid to the individual who submits the most relevant prior art.

Here is what the AOP blog article says about the technology involved:

The Study, Automated Seed Sampler and Method of Sampling Seeds, focuses on just that: a way to sample and sort seeds. The sampling of the seed is done by feeding and holding the seed in the sampling station. Once there, a small tissue sample is removed from the seed (without harming the viability of the seed), which is then analyzed to sort the seed into a compartment with seeds possessing similar genetic components. The most interesting aspect of the process is that it’s all done automatically! This type of technology is mainly used in improving upon and hybridizing seeds for commercial agriculture.

If you’re a commercial gardener or farmer, this type of technology could be perfect for improving your products. You may have seen something like it when shopping for tools or equipment. Moreover, any biologists or genetic specialists could have seen a similar technology while doing research.

(emphasis added).

It seems relatively clear that there is some reason to believe that the $5,000 reward for the best prior art will wind up being paid to that individual who takes the time to review the patents in question and recalls seeing a product that existed that did the same or similar thing prior to the critical date of the patent, which in this case would be August 25, 2003.  So do you know of an example of an automated seed sampler and/or method of sampling seeds that was in use or on sale prior to August 25, 2003?  If you do you could be a winner!

The patents in question in this particular seed search are U.S. Patent No. 7,591,101 and U.S. Patent No. 7,849,632.  The ‘632 patent is a continuation of the ‘101 patent, which means that they share a common specification.  The only difference between the two patents are the claims, which means in terms of disclosure you can focus on the earlier patent, the ‘101 patent.

Here is what the ‘101 patent generally describes the invention to include:

The present invention relates to systems and methods of non-destructively sampling material from seeds. The methods are particularly adapted for automation, which permits greater sampling than was previously practical. With automated, non-destructive sampling permitted by at least some of the embodiments of this invention, it is possible to test every seed in the population, and cull those seeds that do not express the desired trait. This greatly speeds up the process of bulking a given seed population, and can result in an improved final population.

Embodiments of this invention facilitate the testing of most or all of the seeds in a population before planting, so that time and resources are not wasted in growing plants without the desired traits.

Generally the system of this invention comprises: a sampling station; a sampler for removing material from a seed in the sampling station; a seed conveyer for conveying the seed from the sampling station to a compartment in a seed tray; and a conveyor for conveying the material removed from the seed to a corresponding compartment in a sample tray.

According to the method of this invention, seeds are fed individually to a sampling station; and held in the sampling station while a sample is taken from the seed. Each sample is conveyed to at least one individual compartment in a sample tray, and each seed is conveyed to a compartment in a seed tray with a known relationship with the compartment(s) of the sample tray to which the corresponding sample was conveyed. The samples can be tested, and the seeds can be sorted based upon the test results.

This system and method of this invention facilitate the automated, non-destructive sampling of seeds. They permit the testing and sorting of large volumes of seeds, thereby facilitating the bulking up of seed populations with desirable traits. These and other features and advantages will be in part apparent, and in part pointed out hereinafter.

References of interest will focus on an automated method of screening seeds for a testable characteristic.

For more information on this study please visit Automated Seed Sampler and Method of Sampling Seeds. To sign up as a researcher so you can submit prior art for a chance to win this or other available reward prizes please visit Get Rewarded for Your Research.

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Posted in: Gene Quinn, IP News, Articles, Patents

About the Author

is a Patent Attorney and the founder of the popular blog, which has for three of the last four years (i.e., 2010, 2012 and 2103) been recognized as the top intellectual property blog by the American Bar Association. He is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course. As an electrical engineer with a computer engineering focus his specialty is electronic and computer devices, Internet applications, software and business methods.


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