Trying to take out a patent on a cat breed is interesting and very strange at the same time. I have never heard of it before.
What are Patents?
Think of devices and machines and not animals for a start off. Apple, the world’s biggest company, have been doing battle with Samsung over claims by Samsung that Apple stole some of their patents in relation to their mobile phone. The bagless vacuum cleaner invented by Mr Dyson is patented technology. These are examples.
Patents are a way of protecting an invention by stopping people other than the inventor using the invention for commercial advantage. It allows the inventor to rightly exploit his or her invention for financial gain without being encumbered by competition. But you have to get your invention approved and registered and there are rules about that. It starts with an application to the local patent office.
Perhaps the most important rule is that the invention has to really be novel and a truly something new.
Application To Patent A Cat Breed
A certain Mr Ditto decided to apply for a patent on a fairly rare purebred cat called the Pixie-bob. This is a cat that has a wild cat appearance but which is entirely domestic. It was created in the mid-1980s by Carol Ann Brewer, an American lady. It is a domestic cat hybrid and DNA has proven that there are no wild cat genes in it. Despite that, the cat was initially marketed on the basis that it had wild cat characteristics and was probably a wild cat hybrid – American bobcat or lynx crossed with a domestic cat.
It should be said that there have been bobcat to domestic cat matings as I understand it. Incidentally, the most common wild cat to domestic cat mating is the Scottish wildcat to the local domestic cat, which occurs all over, primarily, the north of Scotland. So certain small wild cat species do mate with stray outdoor domestic cats.
However, as I said, the Pixie-bob is all domestic cat but Mr Ditto’s patent application claimed otherwise. His application included the statement:
“…domestic cat breed produced by breeding a purebred cat produced by mating a Bobcat, Lynx, or Bobcat Lynx species with a domestic cat,”
It would seem that Mr Dittos wanted to “restart” the Pixie-bob cat breed by actually mating wild cat with domestic cat in the style of the Bengal cat and Savannah, two well known wild cat hybrids. Mr Ditto then wanted to patent the cat to retain exclusive 100% rights over the new breed (or reinvented breed) to make a financial killing. You can sell wild cat hybrids as exotic and rare cats for large sums of money, for example, $5,000 to $20,0000.
Another important point is that Mr Ditto made the patent application in March 25, 1999 after TICA, a major cat association accepted the cat as a cat breed.
However, I must say it is not clear that he did wish to try and mate bobcat with domestic cat because he appears not to have provided DNA testing to support his application. He simply provided a description of the hybrid cat as having some wild cat traits – not very convincing. For example, his Pixie-bob had a bobtail and strong legs! Poor arguments as all domestic cats have strong legs and the bobtail is not uncommon as a domestic cat mutation (i.e. the American Bobtail and Japanese Bobtail – both 100% domestic cats).
Well the patent office rejected Mr Ditto’s application and he appealed to the Federal Court who also rejected his Pixie-bob patent application. What was the reason?
Rejected Patent Application
The reasons seem to be common sense ones if I have them correct. These are the two main reasons at least:
- On Mr Ditto’s evidence the Pixie-bob occurs naturally with bobcat mating with domestic cat – “product of nature”. You can’t patent that as the human is not involved and…
- TICA had already registered the Pixie-bob so Mr Ditto’s application referred to an already existing cat breed. It was not original or an invention.
Moral: get a life! Don’t try and patent a cat breed. An animal is too organic and natural to be patented. Patent a machine or a computer program but not an animal.
I don’t know if an animal has ever been patented. Anyone know of one? Perhaps the cloned animals are?