In the United States, there are three mechanisms for protecting plant varieties. U.S. Patent law provides two of the three mechanisms: Plant Patents, which provide protection for asexually propagated plants (for example, fruit trees), and Utility Patents, which protect breeding methods, genetic material and the like. The third mechanism is the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA), which has historically protected only seed-propagated plants (for example, wheat and cotton). As the result of an amendment to the PVPA passed in December 2018 and implemented in January 2020, asexually propagated varieties are now protectable under the PVPA. Applications for protection are now being accepted by the Plant Variety Protection Office.
Additional information on the Plant Variety Protection Act can be found on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/plant-variety-protection.