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Plant Patent Project History and Credits

2014-2015: Project Pilot

The project discussion started in July 2014. At the September 2014 meeting between librarians from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Library (then ESPL, now the STEM Library), Jim Miller, Alex Carroll, Robin Dasler, Nedelina Tchangalova, and Nevenka Zdravkovska, and librarians from the Digital Services and Stewardship (DSS), Robin Pike and Jennie Knies, it was decided to go ahead with a pilot project to do in-house scanning of the color plates, modeled after the NYPL project.

We purchased a new color scanner with feeder. Jim Miller downloaded patent information for 1,000 patents (PP09000-PP09999) from PubEast. EPSL night staff and student assistants scanned the color plates. Scanned PDFs were saved on the EPSL Box account. 

Pilot Image Database. Josh Westgard and Ben Wallberg (DSS) suggested a website with facet navigation. They already had created a database using SOLR for the Special Collections in Performing Arts (SCPA piano digital collection). DSS programmers ingested PDFs to the website (hippo). Navigation/facets fields that were identified: year and most common title keywords. Neil Frau-Cortes identified the 20 most common title keywords.

The draft website was inaugurated on June 4, 2015, at the Library Research & Innovative Practice Forum where Nevenka Zdravkovska presented on the pilot project. Additional development was done on the draft website through the end of 2015. In January 2016 the website, along with the UMD Libraries website, transitioned to responsive design.


In February 2016 the project was evaluated and the team decided to proceed and scan the rest of the plant patents available at EPSL in print, through the NYPL scanned patents. The tentative date to finish this portion of the project was July 2017. In June 2016 State and Country fields were added as facet options, and the Address field was added to the detailed record. Additional work extracting State and Country fields was accomplished by Russ Allen, patent enthusiast and guru. Also in June, the facets were collapsed by default.

2017- early 2018

Plant patent scans were on hold. Much of our time and most of our staff were involved in the merger of EPSL and Chemistry Libraries into the STEM Library. 

Late 2018 - early 2019

Scanning resumed in the second half of 2018, for PP00001-PP01999. Russ Allen had compiled spreadsheets from the American Association of Nurserymen indexes of early plant patents. DSS used these spreadsheets to create additional facets for plant names and years for newly loaded patents. Our color image holdings then totaled 15,485 patents. The team borrowed more sets of paper plant patents from the National Agricultural Library, to continue closing the gap in our online holdings.

2020 - 2022

Visualization Project: A web-based visualization project began in 2020 in cooperation with GIS Librarian, Milan Budhathoki. The application will showcase maps showing locations of plant patent origins and metadata pop-ups for each plant patent and data filtering, etc. This application is built on ESRI’s cloud application (Experience Builder) that allows users to interact with various components of plant patents metadata to enhance data visualization. The previous version of the portal was presented at the BTAA 2021 GIS conference and featured in the Map Gallery section.  
In August 2022, the number of plant patents with color images was over 33,000. This figure included the addition of the images previously scanned by the New York Public Library. During the summer months, we were able to scan the color images for PP29435-PP34350.  

2023 - Future

The Visualization Project team is QC'ing the locations of plant patents that originated within the US and around the world. Here is the most recent release of the portal. We are currently seeking user feedback on the design, accessibility, and user experience  
In early 2023 the USPTO ceased to issue plant patents in paper format. Due to this change, the team became unable to scan color plates and upload future plant patents to the database. We will continue to work on scanning missing color images and improve our visualization project.

Long-term goals are:

  • To scan missing color images, mostly among PP8000-PP8999
    • Work with the National Agricultural Library to check its duplicate sets, and a few other PTRCs may have ones we are missing
  • To improve our links to those already scanned by NYPL (PP22648-PP28717)
  • To coordinate with any USPTO long-term plans for color plant patent images


Current Team: Manal Al-hajji, Isabella Baxter, Taaja Blackburn, Pinar Beygo, Milan Budhathoki, Jim Miller, David Steelman, Nevenka Zdravkovska

Previous Contributors: Kelly Banyas, Alex Carroll, Robin Dasler, Aliya Davis, Martha (Pat) deLaubenfels, Peter Eichman, Neil Frau-Cortes,Kirsten Houpt, Jennie Knies, Robin Pike, Alicia (Lee) Pinkney, Mohamed Rasaheed, Eliza Scally, Aris Sotirakis, Ivo Tchangalov, Nedelina Tchangalova, Ben Wallberg, Jeremy Gottberg, Stephanie Ritchie, Shaune Young, Josh Westgard 

Last updated: 8/4/2023

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