articles | gallery of plants | blog | tech blog | plant profiles | patents | mailing lists | top stories | links | shorturl service | tom clothier's archive0
Gallery of Plants
Tech Blog
Plant Profiles
Mailing Lists
    Search ALL lists
    Search help
    Subscription info
Top Stories
sHORTurl service
Tom Clothier's Archive
 Top Stories
New Trillium species discovered

Disease could hit Britain's trees hard

Ten of the best snowdrop cultivars

Plant protein database helps identify plant gene functions

Dendroclimatologists record history through trees

Potato beetle could be thwarted through gene manipulation

Hawaii expands coffee farm quarantine

Study explains flower petal loss

RSS story archive

Re: A moral question

  • Subject: Re: A moral question
  • From: "Bill Meyer" <>
  • Date: Wed, 17 Mar 2004 19:21:01 -0500

Well Chick,
       In your driving need to confess your past trangressions, you are
combining two different but related issues. The issue of small-time
ornamental hybridizers having no rights to royalties for their property, and
the issue of them being cheated by dishonest nurserypeople. Don't let those
last two words get you all wound up with the need to confess something else
here in the forum. Your handling of plants is the norm in the current legal
environment. That doesn't make it right, but everybody does it. Should the
laws change someday, they will probably not be retroactive, so just calm
down. Financial armageddon isn't coming. Have some nice green beer and watch
some basketball.
        Since you're so interested, I haven't personally had any dealings
with crooked nurserypeople, or with honest ones either. If one wants to sell
one of my plants, I will discuss it with them. Should they do what has been
done to other hybridizers in the past, I might take you up on discussing it
here with names and details. I have heard more than a few stories though
from people who've been cheated. I'm starting to wonder if the hybridizers
who've been cheated in deals outnumber the ones who've never been. Some have
given up hybridizing because of it.
        Their stories are their own to tell, and I won't trespass on their
rights to tell them or not tell them publicly. Just because they told me
doesn't make the story mine to do what I please with, does it? That's one of
those ethics things, but never mind. You should remember that this is a
public list, and I don't know who's on it. Some of the cheaters and some of
the cheated may both be here.
        The sheer number of plants out there is what makes those dishonest
operators so reprehensible. As you say there are plenty of plants out there
so if you don't like the terms you would sell something else. So could those
who did the dirty deeds, but they chose to make dishonest deals to get their
hands on newer, more interesting (and profitable) material. The knife of too
many cultivars cuts both ways. There is no excuse for seeking a dishonest
deal when there are so many other plants to sell.
         From your comments, it isn't hard to imagine what business was like
back in the "good old days" when there were no patents, copyrights, etc. on
anything. No darn laws to make taking what you can illegal. When anything
could be had unless the originator of it could find some way to protect it
themselves. When the word "royalty" referred to some people with fancy hats.
I think ornamental plants is one of the few remaining areas where you can
still do those things and not break laws. Enjoy the freedoms while they
last. Hybridizers don't make good vigilantes.
                                                    ......Bill Meyer

> I'm sorry folks, I'm getting as bored with this as you are, and it looks
> like there is no way to convince Bill that everyone in business is not
> out to get him, but I'm going to give it one last try.
> Bill Meyer wrote:
>          First, let me say that most end purchasers (your customers)
>   are under the impression that the hybridizer gets a share of the money
>   pay for the plant.
> I seriously doubt that any of my customers have ever given it a thought.
> You live in the world of the AHS, and you really ought to get out more.
> Nobody is going to take care of you.  It is up to you to profit from your
> efforts if you can.  We may feel sorry for you if you can't figure it
> out, but we are not going to send you and every other hybridizer money
> for the plants we propagage and sell.
>   To straighten you out a little here, the retailer (what
>   you are) is not the one responsible for handling the royalty for the
>   originator. This is done by the manufacturer, who includes this in the
>   to their retail customers. Neither retailers or their customers are
>   involved directly in the royalty-paying transaction.
> Why?  I'm a retailer and I'm fixin to got out there as soon as it warms
> up a little more and start dividing my rear end off.  I'm certainly not
> in the tc lab league, but I produce thousands of plants a year by
> dividing plants that I have purchased and then selling them. I do not pay
> royalties to anyone. There is no mechanism for me to pay royalties to
> anyone.  Why is it that you keep saying that I'm one of the good guys
> when I'm doing exactly what you are saying is greedy and dishonest?  I'm
> not aware of any plants you have introduced, but be forwarned, if I buy
> one of your introductions that is not patented and I don't promise not to
> propagate it, I will cut it as soon as it's ready.  That's what we have
> been doing for lo all these years, and I hate to tell you, that's what we
> will continue doing.  What is the difference, except in scale, when a
> person buys a plant and divides it to trade to someone else, thereby
> getting two plants for the price of one and making a profit, if they
> trade evenly, of 100% on your plant? That person really didn't do much,
> just making a substatial profit from your plant.  Is that ok because we
> all do it and have been since time started?  If you go to Walmart and
> find a sport and run to the checkout counter with it, do you tell the
> cashier that it's worth a lot more than they'er charging?  If not, you
> are taking advantage of the system and profiting from Walmart's
> ignorance.
>          Second, most hybridizers, including myself, are not business
> I think that's obvious to everyone.  You have never run a business, know
> nothing about running a business, and yet for years you have been
> criticising businesses and telling us how we should operate.  Why don't
> you start a little operation there and put your theories to the test.
> With that word of mouth advertising you believe in, you should be able to
> pump those plants out in no time.  Why Bill, think of it, you'll be
> rich.
>   Most of us do it as a hobby, and really don't have much knowledge as to
>   much an agreement needs to be nailed down in every particular to make
>   that we are not cheated. We have made many foolish or incomplete
>   that have been mercilessly exploited by real businesspeople who are
>   familiar with the laws and loopholes.
> I hate to tell you, but a transaction like this is not really that
> complicated.  If you can't write an agreement that gives you what you
> think you deserve, then stop entering into agreements.  Personally I've
> been dealing with many of these people for a long time and I don't know
> that I've ever been cheated by any of them.  I don't know why everyone
> picks on you.  There are always misunderstandings and errors that will
> occur, but I can't call someone a scumbag for that.  If someone does
> cheat me, and I feel there is no excuse, and I can't get them to do the
> right thing, the first thing I would do it tell them that I will tell my
> story and name names.  If they really cheat you what are you afraid of?
> They don't deserve protection.  If you tell your story and the rest of us
> think you've been cheated too, I would think that would affect your
> cheater's business.  Who else is going to give them a plant if they know
> they can't be trusted.  Come on Bill, I need to know.
>   We make many foolish assumptions about
>   the honesty and morality of the people we are entering agreements with.
>   are easily confused, even though many of us are intelligent members of a
>   variety of demanding professions with high levels of education, by the
>   remarkable ability of some business people to hit us with various
>   "interpretations" of right and wrong.We are sheep being led to the
knives,                                               and the fleecing is
sure to come with no protecting laws to stop it. We also
>   don't like to admit that we are so easily taken advantage of, but that's
>   another story.
> I'm starting to feel sorry for you.  I'm still not sure what is so hard
> about agreeing on what you want or walking away from a deal, but I really
> do feel sorry for you.
> A few years ago, a tc lab owner and I talked about putting one of my
> plants in the lab.  His policy was that he would make me as many plants
> as I wanted, and after I had taken mine, he would be free to sell the
> plant in his catalog.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but
> it wasn't what I wanted so I went somewhere else and had the plant tc'd
> under an agreement I could live with.  It was not a written agreement and
> I have absolutely no fear of being cheated.  I know who I'm dealing with
> and we both know exactly what I want.  The plant will be propagated to
> the level I requested and then taken out of the lab.  I have no reason to
> believe there will be anything done with my plant that is greedy or
> dishonest, but if I dealt with someone who cheated me, I would have no
> problem with telling everyone about it.
>          Third, people who write, take photos, create music, and other
>   endeavors have routine protection under the laws, and hybridizers mostly
>   start out foolishly assuming that they do too. It's hard to grasp that
>   really is no protection (other than plant patents, which are geared for
>   larger markets only) and that we are at the mercy of the manufacturers.
>   won't say how wonderful it is to be depending on the mercy of
>   businesspeople. I don't think it takes a lot of thinking to see how
>   other creative people came to have laws that protect them, but if
>   were fair and honest would there be a need for those laws? Are most
>   people fair and honest by nature? Do we really need so many laws to
>   their conduct, or can we just trust them to do the right thing? If
>   ever had dealings with insurance companies, I think you know the answer
>   those questions.
> So what? You have to live within the system that exists.  Maybe you
> should take up photography.
>         Lastly, we are currently in a situation in which there are no laws
>   on the books which require a plant manufacturing business to offer any
>   royalties to the person whose plant they are manufacturing and selling
>   retailers, save for the plant patent laws, which are clearly inadequate.
>   think this will probably change in time, as lawmakers just love making
>   laws, and the conduct of businesses where there are no laws covering
>   they do is usually just not good enough.
> Have you tried calling your congressman to see if he cares?  Probably be
> a feather in his or her cap to tackle an issue like this.
>    I would agree that it is often a
>   case of the few spoiling it for the rest, and that many businesses can
>   operate honestly without laws to regulate them. There will always be
>   dishonest businesses in the game however, and we both know that. As
>   dealings become more public, I think they will improve at all levels.
> I think you are very naive
>       Now to get to your real point:
>   "If I buy your plant, it is mine, and unless it is patented or we have
>   to some kind of agreement, I can do what I want with it."
>      This is basically the crux of your argument (Andrew's too), right?
>   point being that there is no legal protection for me, so you can do
>   you wish. If I had a photo you wanted to use on your website, or a
>   description you wanted to use, or virtually anything else you had need
>   for your business for that matter, then I would have legal protection.
>   would be required to deal with me under the terms of those laws. If a
>   picture, you would need to specify what rights you wanted to buy - just
>   paying for it isn't enough.  The responsibilty would lie with you to
make a
>   clear and fair statement of what you want it for and what rights you
want to
>   purchase. If you don't think this is true, try it some time with a stock
>   photography agency. I saw it tried once and the outcome was a $10,000
>   for the business that did it. In essence, the power you would have over
>   property is limited, because the law backs me up.
> Very true, and so what?
>       The way things are now, of all the things you need to do business,
>   the plants you buy (save for the few patented ones) are available to you
>   without any legal restrictions.
> Actually, if I remember my business law, that's not quite true.  If I buy
> a bag of fertilizer and divide it into three bags and sell each one under
> the name of Bridgewoods Fabulous Plant Food, there is absolutely nothing
> to stop me.  I can't manufacture the fertilizer if there is a patent on
> it, but once I have bought it, as long as I obey the patent and copyright
> laws, I can do what I want with it. I can profit from it and I have no
> obligation to the first seller or manufacturer except to obey the rules.
>   They are the only things where you can just
>   take whatever liberties you want to take, because the hybridizers have
>   legal rights to their own property. While this is something you
>   celebrate, it is not such a great deal for those on the receiving end.
>       So, we're back where we started with this. This discussion has
>   to do with what's legal and what isn't. That is written in the law books
>   all to see. Some of the other people reading this may not know, but we
>   this discussion all do. This discussion began with the moral and ethical
>   issues at root in the "Moral Question" in the subject line. You are
>   allowed to take full advantage of the unprotected hybridizers, so there
>   only the question of ethics.
> My part in this discussion started when you called nursery folks who
> don't play by Bill Meyer's rules greedy and dishonest.  I would still
> like you to tell me how I am exempted from your rules.  Until then, I
> have to assume that you think what I do is greedy and dishonest.  If
> there is something in your system that exempts me, tell me what it is and
> maybe I'll suport you.
>       Glen's original proposition was essentially a way to make public the
>   arrangement between a manufacturer and the hybridizer, by adding a tag
>   stating in effect that the hybridizer approves the selling of the plant.
> If I understand Glen's proposal, it is a means to gather the protections
> of a patent without going through the patent process.  By the way, the
> fact that some people have paid $5,000 for a patent does not mean it has
> to cost that much.  I've never cared enough to do it, but I think it can
> be done for a lot less.  How would your system work for those of us who
> sell thousands of plants that are not propagated by tissue culture?  If I
> buy a plant with one of those little tags in it, am I prohibited from
> propagating it without your permission?  Sounds like a patent to me.
> Either live with the current system or have it changed.  Your chance of
> doing the later is zero.
>    I don't think the manufacturers would go
>   for it, but it would be nice if they did.
> Ithink that's an understatement.  The "manufacturers " expect you to fend
> for yourself.
>    I guess I'm just too cynical to
>   think that businesses would be agreeable to an ethical approach that
>   weren't forced into by law. As you say, it is currently up to the
>   to try to put a deal together with one of the honest manufacturers, and
>   are on their own in the business jungle. Fair is after all just a
>   condition.
> What is so terrible about expecting you to take care of yourself?  There
> are ways to do it, there are plenty of honest people in this business,
> and everyone is not out to get you.  I'll be glad to give you a list if
> you don't know who they are.
> Who is cheating you?  I personally have never seen one of your hybrids
> offered for sale. What exactly are we talking about?  The only expamples
> I've seen in your many posts are about people who were dishonest,
> insurance companies, and Martha.  If you deal with dishonest people you
> will probably get cheated, not just in your hosta world, but anywhere in
> your life. It's just up to you to avoid them.  You keep saying that there
> are plenty of honest nursery people, why don't you ask one for their
> help?
> I suspect that the real problem is that you can't find anyone to give you
> as much as you think your plant is worth.  There is practically an
> unlimited supply of new plants for us to choose from.  If you put
> restrictions on your's, it has to be significantly more valuable to a
> seller than all the stuff that's already out there.  Or do we put these
> restrictions on older plants so we have to start paying Mildred and Paul
> and all the other hybridizers we've been cheating for years.  I don't see
> any reason why you should get something and they shouldn't, unless you're
> just worried about yourself.  We're not talking about ex post facto laws
> here, we're talking morals.  If we agree that you deserve a buck, doesn't
> everyone else.  Good grief, I think Bill just put me into Chapter 11.
> And lastly,
> Oh Lord, no more Chickeries, I'm so tired.
> Chick

To sign-off this list, send email to with the

 © 1995-2017 Mallorn Computing, Inc.All Rights Reserved.
Our Privacy Statement
Other Mailing lists | Author Index | Date Index | Subject Index | Thread Index