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Hops with Patent?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Ri0, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. Ri0

    Ri0 Poobah (1,050) Wisconsin Jul 1, 2012

    I read this on Ale Asylums FB page.
    I'm curious, do other hop varieties have patents? Doesn't this put breweries in a bad position if they use a certain hop in their beers and it becomes too expensive? Ballistic IPA is one of the best in WI and I'd hate to see it go away because Ale Asylum can no longer afford the Amarillo hops.
  2. Simcoe, Citra come to mind. There are many more that are trademarked. All of the new hops are protected in some some way by trademarks or patents.

    I have heard that V. Gamache farms has taken on another farm to grow Amarillo. This farm went to the time, investment and effort to develope the hop, they own it, and you should be thankful they did this.
    WickedSluggy likes this.
  3. BeastLU

    BeastLU Advocate (550) Virginia Dec 20, 2012

    If you look closely when these ops are listed on packaging you will actually see the trade mark symbol.
  4. tillmanwoods

    tillmanwoods Initiate (15) Georgia Sep 11, 2013

    All of the new hops are either patented or trademarked. Till how long will they be patented?
  5. 20 years from the filing date
  6. spicoli00

    spicoli00 Champion (760) Indiana Jul 6, 2005

    Can you "reverse engineer" a hop to have essentially the same charactersitics as the brand name hop without running into intellectual property issues?
  7. Kanger

    Kanger Savant (465) New York Sep 3, 2013

    As long as you don't try to sell it, then I'm sure it's fine.
  8. leedorham

    leedorham Champion (845) Washington Apr 27, 2006

    More accurate fun fact: They are only grown and packaged for sale on one farm in the world.

    The rhizomes for all the proprietary varieties make it off the farm pretty much as soon as they are grown on any sort of commercial scale. There's no way to prevent it. The farm mentioned by the brewery is in Toppenish so you could probably get your own with a couple friendly Spanish phrases and a half rack of beer.

    Whether any farmers are actually trying to sell them under different names is another story. That would probably be a risky endeavor these days with DNA testing and whatnot.
    JackHorzempa likes this.
  9. ratmoss

    ratmoss Savant (275) Illinois Sep 11, 2005

    I'm pretty sure this is commonplace in agriculture. Specialty seed types of corn, soybeans, tomatoes, etc. are all proprietary.
  10. An industry source told me V. Gamache farms had taken on deals with other farm(s) to grow Amarillo. They probably ran out of room on their property, it was stated in 2011 at the NHC that there were 480 acres of Amarillo. The average US hop farm is 450 acres. High demand for that hop.
  11. leedorham

    leedorham Champion (845) Washington Apr 27, 2006

    Makes sense. That's how it is with all the new designer apples. You just have to make a deal with the owner of the patent to grow and sell it, often giving the patent owner some cut of the profits.
  12. Sometimes longer depending on how long the patent office delayed in granting the patent. If the term is extended it will say so on the face of the issued patent.

    No, not if it is patented. A patent gives the patent holder the absolute right to control who makes, sells, or uses the patented product. Anyone who makes, sells, or uses a product for which there is currently a valid, unexpired U.S. patent is guilty of patent infringement.
  13. LeRose

    LeRose Advocate (605) Massachusetts Nov 24, 2011

    This is true. We run into it with our fruit crop all the time. Rutgers University actually holds a number of varietal patents. Our growers can buy the plants and grow them, but they pay a license fee to Rutgers when they start selling the fruit (or we start selling it for them). Think this is pretty common in agriculture.

    In my work, I can explore patented technologies till the cows come home. If we were to sell one bit of product using those technologies, we'd be in violation immediately and the penalties are extreme. I learned more than I want or need to know about patent loopholes when I participated in writing and defending a few...it is quite the complicated mess and I try to avoid getting sucked into that black hole whenever possible.
  14. spicoli00

    spicoli00 Champion (760) Indiana Jul 6, 2005

    is not a technology to make the hops though right, it's the chemical composition. I thinking like the pharma arena where you have brand name and generic drugs that are molecularly identical. I wouldn't be able to call me hops Mosaic but i could call it "the hop formerly known as an internet browser." another example are financial indices. i can create and calculate an index that is identical to the S&P 500 but i can't sell it as the S&P 500.
  15. I wish I knew how to speak Spanish.;)

    leedorham likes this.
  16. LeRose

    LeRose Advocate (605) Massachusetts Nov 24, 2011

    No...it is the actually variety itself that is patented. That is the similarity to the hops scenario. Process and utility patents are something else all to themselves. The only common theme is they are all a PITA and getting burned at the stake for violations.

    So the horticulture folks go do their voodoo, come up with a fruit that is say physically bigger, has more pigment, and a higher sugar to acid ratio. Whatever. They can then patent that strain. Here is a public example that wont get me into any trouble: http://www.google.com/patents/USPP14225

    So you can't rename it, and you can't really come up with an equivalent to get around it, either. If the variety touches any of the points in the patent, no dice. That is how I understand it, anyway.

    Does everything and everybody follow the rules? No. We get into hot water all the time infringing on technology patents or thinking somebody is using our intellectual property.
  17. spicoli00

    spicoli00 Champion (760) Indiana Jul 6, 2005

    Making more sense now. thanks.
    LeRose likes this.
  18. Ranbot

    Ranbot Advocate (535) Pennsylvania Nov 27, 2006

    If a hop is patented and only grown on a single farm, I wonder how much the genetic make-up of the plant vs the terroir of it's growing location effects the final flavor of the hop. So, if the farm growing the amarillo hop expands to a new location, will the hops from the new farm/terrain have the same flavor as the original?
  19. spicoli00

    spicoli00 Champion (760) Indiana Jul 6, 2005

    stupid patents. why are patents getting in the way of great beer and my mouth?

    this is definitely ringing a bell now with the generics. good call there kdb.

    IIRC, cascade hops were developed by the USDA and were basically given away. Not sure what other hop varieties the USDA developed. LeRose posted the cranberry patent, but does anyone have a hop patent they could share and/or a list of patented hops, which is what OP was asking for i think...
  20. ISO: bootleg Amarillo rhizome
  21. As someone else already mentioned, you cannot reverse engineer a patented product and attempt to sell it. However, reverse engineering is (usually) okay for trade secret acquisition.
  22. draheim

    draheim Poobah (1,050) Washington Sep 18, 2010

    Kind of cracks me up that a couple of farms in Toppenish and Yakima, WA have the entire craft brewing industry by the short hairs.
    Strangestbrewer likes this.
  23. Mitch Steele during a recent presentation at the National Homebrewers Conference had a great statement to brewers/homebrewers: use more of the ‘classic’ American hops like Cascade. As a homebrewer I thought to myself: when was the last time I brewed with Cascade!?! It has been so long that I can’t remember.

    Hopfenunmaltz had a good post in the homebrewing forum about brewing a clone of Ballantine IPA using ‘old school’ hops of Bullion, Cluster, and EKG.

    So, we brewers really do not need to be chasing the ‘latest & greatest’ hop. There are plenty of other hops out there to brew quality hoppy beers.

    draheim likes this.
  24. Stevedore

    Stevedore Poobah (1,020) Wisconsin Nov 16, 2012

    Hop whalezzz?
  25. There is much to read on the blog here, but it does not have any current entries.

    As far as the public hops, those were done at universities. The funding often came from the "evil" big breweries, as they were after higher Alpha and domestic aroma hops. The big breweries got their desired hops, but those were made public.

    Some good information in this podcast from Dr. Al Haunold, retired from OSU.
  26. leedorham

    leedorham Champion (845) Washington Apr 27, 2006

    While I appreciate Mitch's sentiment - If you are a prepared brewer and plan accordingly to get the newer oil bomb varieties (contracts, yo), those hops will pay for themselves in a few different ways:

    - Higher oil content means more pop for less hops, both in bitterness and flavor/aroma
    - Less hop lbs/bbl means less absorption & better brewhouse efficiency
    - Putting the words Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo, etc on your beer means you sell more beer

    I must admit, I have been a bit of a cynic in the past when it comes to the latest "it" varieties. However, when it comes to beer & brewing, I trust my senses over all else, and my senses tell me Citra, Amarillo, Simcoe, Centennial, etc greatly benefit the finished product.
  27. draheim

    draheim Poobah (1,050) Washington Sep 18, 2010

    Your last bullet is especially true, at least as far as I'm concerned. I'll buy any beer that has the word Citra on it.
  28. draheim

    draheim Poobah (1,050) Washington Sep 18, 2010

    Ironic that they got their higher-Alpha hops but then apparently had no idea what to do with them.
  29. Well, they knew what they wanted to do with them - as this 1973 article explains - save money by using fewer hops for the same (low) bitterness levels in their beers, and stop buying those damn expensive "furrin" hops.;)
    Luckily, some folks like Fritz Maytag, Jack McAuliffe and Ken Grossman came along with even better ideas...
    cavedave, JackHorzempa and draheim like this.
  30. “ …my senses tell me Citra, Amarillo, Simcoe, Centennial, etc greatly benefit the finished product.” You will get no disagreements from me on that. I just bottled a Simcoe/Amarillo IPA yesterday; I have brewed this type of IPA 4 times now.

    As a homebrewer I recognize that I am the ‘last in line’ when it comes to being able to obtain hops. If in the future if I am unable to get these new ‘sexy’ hops I will have no issues with buying some Cascade (or Bullion, Cluster, and EKG) and make a tasty non-sexy IPA.

    As regards the topic of: “If you are a prepared brewer and plan accordingly to get the newer oil bomb varieties (contracts, yo)…” There are only so much of the ‘sexy’ hops available and with over 2500 breweries now in the US, not every commercial brewery will be able to get the types and quantities of the ‘sexy’ hops they want/need. Even Lagunitas had to delay the year round production of Sucks because they did not have all of the needed hops for this beer; Lagunitas is a non-small craft brewery and they were unable to get adequately served. I would imagine that the new, small craft breweries will have an even greater challenge to get all of the ‘sexy’ hops that they want. The bottom line is that for the 2500+ commercial breweries there is way more demand than supply; somebody(s) will be ‘left out in the cold’.

  31. Less hops per barrel makes the accountants happy, no?

    Edit, see that JK was first with that, with references, again.
  32. When some young person tells me they are going to open a brewery in a couple years, I ask if they have signed a hop contract, and a malt contract, with the suppliers. Might take longer for the sexy hops than the brewery.
  33. ratmoss

    ratmoss Savant (275) Illinois Sep 11, 2005

    I've got to say, this is one of the most interesting and informative discussions I've come across on BA in a while. I've learned a lot here over the past couple of days. Thanks to all of those contributing.
  34. draheim

    draheim Poobah (1,050) Washington Sep 18, 2010

    Then I'll phrase it another way. It's ironic that the little guys found a way to use these hops—which were developed for the macros to cut costs—to take away market share.
  35. Jeff, a friend and I visited a nanobrewery (1 barrel brewhouse) a couple of weeks ago. A young guy (29 years old) is the owner and he is a few weeks away from going commercial (he has received several permits from the Feds and PA and he need one last permit from PA to sell his beer). I asked him about how he was going to get his supplies (hops, malts) and his response was that he had a ‘relationship’ with a local Homebrewing Store. All that I could think when I heard that was aw-oh!

    I continued to press the point to see if some local established breweries would sell him materials at cost (Sly Fox and Iron Hill are very close to him). He mentioned he once got malt from Yards in Philly but that it was too far away (he expended a lot of gas money for his truck to pick up the malt).

    I think he will soon ‘learn’ getting materials via a homebrew shop is less than optimum.


  36. Ouch! When will people with no business sense learn that they have no business running a business??

    Is he at least buying base malt in bulk?
  37. mcaulifww

    mcaulifww Initiate (0) Virginia Aug 18, 2011

    Patents are a huge double edged sword. I'm personally all for the person who took the time, effort, ingenuity, creativity, and expertise to create something get credit for it. But, there are people out there (Read: Strange Brew) that use patents as a way to abuse the legal system into making a buck (Patent Trolls) and sueing others. Some people do a little of both (Read: Monsanto) They creat something and patent it, then go sure everyone else for a bunch of complicated reasons.

    Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks are awesome and they are awful.
  38. I must admit that I am not the most observant person in the world. I would assume that he is purchasing his malt in 50 lb. sacks but I have no idea how many sacks at a time.

    He is not truly in business yet; he can only sell his beer on premise in a non-fancy tasting ‘room’.

    Purchasing grain in large(er) quantities will be more of an issue when he goes commercial (assuming he can successfully sell his kegged beer to local beer bars).

  39. LeRose

    LeRose Advocate (605) Massachusetts Nov 24, 2011

    I don't like this reference, but here is one list. The asterisks are the patented/proprietary varieties, but there is no date or publication which makes this unsubstantiated: http://www.indiehops.com/pdf/haunoldpub-privchart.pdf and this one is better (same source, I think, just not in table form): http://inhoppursuit.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-proprietary-hops.html with links to the lists. For those who don't want to read it, I quote:

    Let's break this down. The major proprietary hops include Amarillo, Ahtanum, Simcoe, Warrior, CTZ and Citra. "Proprietary" means that the owner of the invention (ie, the hop rhizomes and flowers) is empowered to restrict access to the public (ie, the growers and suppliers) unless the latter have agreed to abide by licensing agreements which involve the payment of royalties.

    The list indicates six varieties are proprietary. This particular list is three years old, so Mosaic doesn't show up along with anything more recently developed. Mosaic is proprietary. Proprietary doesn't necessarily mean patented, but can be protected this way: http://www.nal.usda.gov/pgdic/Probe/v2n2/plant.html

    Here's a specific patent on the Columbus variety. It looks like an early patent, then abandoned, then revived. So the variety can be patented, but there are other ways to protect a variety and make it "proprietary". Either way, they get tied up, and I don't mean on the wire trellis ;)

    spicoli00 likes this.
  40. spicoli00

    spicoli00 Champion (760) Indiana Jul 6, 2005

    This is why i hate lawyers.

    I used to do a lot of contract negotiation for use of intellectual property rights (not a lawyer, from the business side). the things we would haggle over were at times very useful but often totally inane.

    Can't believe this is already hitting the craft brew industry in this fashion. What's next, designer malts and grains?

    Also, why do breweries then not patent or protect rights to their yeast strains? Pretty sure little sumpin' wild uses westmalle yeast; it says so on the bottle.