Artificial by Nature: Plastic Flowers as Intangible Properties

Dr Jose Bellido, University of Kent

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In March 1961, the refusal of entry of a ‘Sweetheart Roses’ consignment into the United States began a series of interesting controversies concerning the copyright in plastic roses, geraniums, lilacs, and flower corsages. Although the history of these cases remains largely unexplored, this paper shows how significant they were in addressing the unstable distinction between the natural and the artificial, particularly when the subsistence of copyright was at stake. Artificial flowers simulated nature, but they did so in ways that forced copyright to construct its subject matter differently. The irony implicit here resulted in the law looking at flower construction as an artifice but trying to legitimate it by grounding the question of originality in the way nature itself was approached.

About the speaker

portrait of Dr Jose BellidoDr Jose Bellido
Reader in Law, Kent Law School, University of Kent

Jose Bellido is Reader in Law at the University of Kent and studies the history of intellectual property in the late nineteenth and the twentieth century, especially in Britain. He is the editor/author of several publications including Landmark Cases in Intellectual Property, Hart/Bloomsbury Press, 2017 and Adventures in Childhood: Intellectual Property, Imagination and the Business of Play, CUP, 2022 (with Kathy Bowrey).

About People, Plants and the Law Online Lecture Series

The People, Plants, and the Law lecture series explores the legal and lively entanglements of human and botanical worlds.

Today people engage with and relate to plants in diverse and sometimes divergent ways. Seeds—and the plants that they produce—may be receptacles of memory, sacred forms of sustenance, or sites of resistance in struggles over food sovereignty. Simultaneously, they may be repositories of gene sequences, Indigenous knowledge, bulk commodities, or key components of economic development projects and food security programs.

This lecture series explores the special role of the law in shaping these different engagements, whether in farmers’ fields, scientific laboratories, international markets, or elsewhere.

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Hamish MacDonald

Carol Ballard


This lecture series is a partnership between The University of Queensland, The ARC Laureate Project Harnessing Intellectual Property to Build Food Security, The ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant  Success in Nature & Agriculture, and The ARC Uniquely Australian Foods Training Centre.


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