A plant cultivar is kind of like a subspecies, apparently? Like a pedigree dog/cat. A bunch of different-looking plants can be the same species, and people are all about creating really pretty ones.
Some companies patent cultivars, to be the sole suppliers of seeds or plants.
Avery found that there was some confusion over two named cultivars of this particular species. He was finding that a lot of websites selling it were repeating the same story.
Cultivar A was created by Company A and patented, but then Company B changed the appearance of Cultivar A slightly using plant growth regulators (PGRs) and then patented it with lots of entirely false but legit-looking details, and called it Cultivar B.
The only difference between Cultivars A and B, these sites claim, is that Cultivar B has slightly smaller leaves - because examples of it have been treated with PGRs, and when left untreated for long enough the leaves revert back to the Cultivar A appearance.
So, since they took a patented plant and altered it very superficially and then re-patented it with false info, Company B effectively "stole" a plant from Company A.
People are righteously favouring the underdog, but the information quality feels very "a man in a pub told me".
Avery asked around these sites, who provided no evidence, but they all learned about it from the same place.
It's a group on Facebook *just* for this particular genus and its cultivars. Everyone there is very familiar with this theft of cultivar patent, and repeats the story.
Avery wanted to understand it better. (He likes to check his sources before repeating scandalous information, along with 0.00000003% of internet users.) So he asked if anyone had solid indisputable evidence of the cultivar patent theft.
It turned out that the source of the claim is the admin of that Facebook group, an expert in the genus who clearly knows the genus extremely well. They provided lots and lots of screenshots of things that were not really relevant, saying it was evidence of the theft.
The admin said that Company A patented Cultivar A before Company B stole it, so Avery asked to see the original patent, since the patent system is meant to be publicly viewable so anyone can verify anything.
The admin didn't provide it, and described it as "quite elusive."
In addition to a complete absence of publicly viewable patent for Cultivar A (which makes no sense in the context of patents), the admin also said that Company A seemed to have no interest in pursuing the theft, and hadn't even acknowledged it.
The admin seems confused and/or evasive, so Avery had to clarify that:
- he wasn't questioning the admin's expertise
- he wasn't disputing that the two cultivars were the same species
- he understood the admin's explanations, but he'd asked for *evidence*, not explanations
All this time, other members of the group were chiming in with comments supporting the admin, thanking them for sharing their expertise, etc.
Everyone (including the admin) was being weirdly defensive.
No one was providing the patent for Cultivar A from Company A.
So, when asked for proof that it was patented, the admin referred back to a piece of evidence they'd provided earlier in the conversation.
Reader, it is a screenshot of one comment in a Facebook thread, auto-translated from Dutch, saying that Cultivar A is a patented species.
This admin saw that the two cultivars were identical, saw that Facebook comment. The admin concluded that Company A had indeed patented Cultivar A, that Company B used PGRs to create a fraudulent patent, and that Big Flora then erased the patent for Cultivar A from the internet.
After coming to this conclusion, they then persuaded everyone in this Facebook group for this particular plant genus that this was true (without evidence), and even managed to spread the information out to many plant sellers' websites, propagating (ha) this rumour as fact.
So this Facebook group admin has a whole cult of group members defending them and spreading the word, it's now widely held (but very niche) industry knowledge, and it's all a conspiracy theory from ONE PERSON based on a screenshot of a Facebook comment auto-translated from Dutch.
And the admin isn't an ex-employee or anything that would explain their dedication, they're just... a customer.
Dozens of people, at least, are just accepting it without digging further, and are so committed to it that they will defend the admin when they're asked for evidence.
🍹🌴 a smol island in the sun 🌴🍹