Living with a plant nerd (🌿🤓) means you get to hear about the really specific nerdy drama that happens within groups of species specialists, and this 🍿 is a GREAT one.

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.

Anyway that's my 🍿, I hope you enjoyed. :D

Update: A group member just said "maybe you haven't had the opportunity to soak up the wealth of knowledge that [Admin] patiently shares with all of us", and accused Avery of working for Company B, whose patent is uncontested by Company A and would have no reason to hire spies?!

This really nicely encapsulates the creepy cult-like nature of this Facebook group about one genus of plant. :D

Avery, stick around longer and you too will start doing hearteyes and fawning over Admin and require no evidence for their claims whatsoever! ⏱️👀

Update 2: Avery contacted the person from the plant nursery in Indonesia for clarification, i.e. the irrefutable evidence that there was a patent for Cultivar A. It took a while for them to respond, and it's amazing.

I don't know how understandable this saga is, so:

That's the person who left the off-hand Facebook comment upon which the entire conspiracy theory is based, confirming that they're not aware of Cultivar A, the plant whose patent was allegedly stolen by Company B, being patented.

The conspiracy is COMPLETELY BASELESS, and clearly the admin who read that original comment and concocted a conspiracy never even contacted the "source" to rule out misunderstandings.

Dozens of websites are perpetuating these unfounded rumours, and no one thought to check!

Update 3: Admin is digging their heals in, and saying that their "source" not knowing about a patent for Cultivar A doesn't mean the patent for Cultivar A never existed.

The "source" mistakenly saying that a patent for Cultivar A existed is the entire basis of their conspiracy!!

The people in the group who are commenting on the topic are all still scrabbling for flimsy justification to insist that the patent for Cultivar B is fraudulent, even though there is now no evidence whatsoever of Cultivar A being patented.

It's just all so WEIRD and CULTY.

Something I didn't explain is, in the patent for Cultivar B there are some weird irregularities. Like, there's no mention of PGRs, but after you've bought one of the plants, if you let it grow for a while the leaf shape and size reverts to the shape/size of Cultivar A's leaves.

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This doesn't indicate *fraud*, since Cultivar A was never patented.

Anyway, the groupies are all like, "why would a company make a patent for a plant and fill it with lies UNLESS THEY WERE COMMITTING FRAUD. There is no other explanation, that's all the evidence we need."

Continuing the creepy cult theme, someone in the FB group who *isn't* the admin has posted apparently accusing the person in Indonesia of being a lying liar who lies, and therefore the patent must be fraudulent.

The person in Indonesia was just someone working in a greenhouse.

(Unless I've misunderstood? It's not 100% clear which/whose "comments made" they are referring to.)

Anyway, latest:

Avery did some research and it *looks like* the plant that Company B are selling under the name Cultivar B (and charging people to propagate and sell using the patent as justification) is not the same as the plant described in the patent for Cultivar B.

[In fact, the patent isn't patenting a particular genetic variety, it's patenting a *form* of plant. 9cm tall, 9cm wide, leaves of a particular small size. So to get around the Cultivar B patent, all you'd have to do is... grow it a bit bigger before selling it?]

Anyway, the FB cult maintain that this is evidence of plant theft. (It is not.)

If Company B are selling random plants like "patented Cultivar B" when it's not, and requiring plant growers to pay royalties for propagating and selling it, that might be fraud, but it's not theft of Cultivar A from Company A.

(Again, there is no Cultivar A patent.)

The thing is, if Company B *are* selling plants that are not patented and claiming they are, it kinda works against them. Let's say plant sellers *are* propagating and breeding it and *not* paying Company B, if Company B decide to sue them over it, they would then have to prove >

> that the plant sellers were selling Cultivar B.

Company B: Stop selling our patented plant

Seller: We're not selling your patented plant

Company B: You bought it from us though!

Judge: Company B, prove that their plant is the one described in your patent

Company B: oh no

So anyone who is selling what Company B is calling Cultivar B could just, stop paying Company B for the right to do so, and if Company B took them to court over it Company B would absolutely lose and also look very silly...!

Avery has also learned that Cultivar B's patent was filed in the US with the USian system of patents, but also with the EU's own different plant-specific equivalent system that is a lot more thorough and vigorous, and the plant descriptions for each are SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT.

The EU patent: Larger leaves and various other features, consistent with what happens when you grow the plant without PGRs, etc.

The USian patent: Smaller leaves, consistent with what happens when you grow the plant *with* PGRs, but denies use of PGRs to match this description.

So like, the two patents are for the same Cultivar B, but the descriptions differ, for reasons unknown?? That in itself is pretty weird, clearly Company B do own Cultivar B and the US patent is inaccurate, which could lose them a lot of money if any plant breeders catch on.

But neither is a sneaky re-patent of Cultivar A, which was apparently never patented in the first place. PGRs were not used to steal a plant, which the Facebook cult maintain is the only explanation.

Pleased to report that the article about this fascinating conspiracy, a fact-checking article with links to sources and patents and whatnot, is almost finished. :D I'm proofreading and it's great.

If you like discussion of extremely niche online drama, the Reddit comments below the link to the debunking post are definitely something. :D Some people stalked the plant debunker from the private Facebook group to their Reddit post and kept going.

reddit.com/r/houseplants/comme

🍿

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