Intellectual Property and Peanuts


What can peanuts tell us about intellectual property? Rather than take a broad domain of intellectual property—patents, plant variety protection, trademarks, copyright, or trade secrets—and study its relationship to agriculture or a food product, I am choosing to focus on the peanut, asking how the ownership of intangibles has worked to translate the crop across the commodity chain. Presuming the peanut as a stable material thing becomes a problem when considering whether or not there is correspondence between the physical object and its engagements with the law, not in general but at various points of production. Here, I adopt a historical perspective and approach the study of intellectual property in terms of what it does or has done to specific peanuts. The talk will cover the sourcing of germplasm, breeding, farming, processing, packaging, and the selling of peanuts.


Tad is a PhD candidate at the TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland, studying the interaction between intellectual property rights and peanuts.

His previous areas of study include history and anthropology, focusing on agriculture, rural development, and agrobiodiversity conservation. Tad has done work in The Gambia, West Africa and Georgia, USA, and will be extending his current research to include peanut disputes in Queensland, Australia. Tad eats salted peanuts nearly every day.