I've given quite a bit of thought to this in the interest of encouraging communities to guide more of the resources already expended on landscape establishment and maintenance toward growing food. Also though, from the perspective of breeding new varieties since I'm into that myself. so, as someone said, it's two issues.
GROWING NEW TREES: Most stuff is easy and most rootstock is easy to grow or propagate. But someone has to do it and care about it. That's a job, like any job and can only be done on a large scale for free by someone with a side income that doesn't require that much work from them, unless it is a profitable endeavor for them. If the effort was decentralized, then a bunch of people could do a little bit of the work. I think a good way to do that is the model we already have, which is the scion exchanges. The more the effort is expanded and localized, the more a few people will do a lot of thankless work for a majority of ungrateful freeloaders. That at least is the average course of things.
PATENTS: Most fruit varieties are out of patent. It's either 20 or 25 years. The Home Orchard Society keeps a list of apples that are in or out of patent somewhere which you might be able to find if you look hard. If you grow a patented variety, then you obviously deem the effort someone went to to create that variety as worthwhile. Breeding is a long game that and usually a labor of love. Individual enthusiasts often put their heart and soul into it and larger programs dump tons of money and manpower into it. Especially for fruit varieties it's a very long road to a new variety. As someone that is both a home fruit grower/enthusiast and a breeder of apples, my view on the subject is between two worlds. I think we need a vibrant culture of propagation and fruit growing. Fruit enthusiasts have a lot of power to increase the popularity of new varieties by testing them outside the industrial fruit production paradigm. I think what we need is a culutral attitude shift from what can we get away with, to how can we support breeders at any level who make stuff that is worthwhile. I have a Patreon account where people just give me money every month to keep doing what I do. i also get occasional tips and donations by mail or paypal. I recently was given 250.00 by an individual toward my apple breeding program for instance. What if we had that model for small scale breeders? What if when you looked up a fruit variety online, you found a hub website for breeders highlighting their work and their varieties, documenting the morphology and cultural characterists and grower experience, as well as the story behind their creation. What is lacking is the ability for citizen growers to easily find and support citizen breeders. Establish a standard donation or standard sliding scale and a semblance of something like crowd funding. That could even potentially do away with the expensive and divisive process of patenting for small breeders. Payment of royalties on patented varieties could probably be made easier than it is. They are not that much. If the variety is worth growing, then it's worth paying the small patent fee. The best new disease resistant stuff does not grow on trees. They are the long efforts of multigenerational breeding. I'm thinking there could be a hybrid between the two as well. A patent process that allows limited license to home growers, say two or three trees or less, with a social expectation that if it works out for you that you drop in and show some love for the person that made that variety possible. This could also create a main community hub to discuss these varieties and their cultural benefits and drawbacks, as well as a community for breeders. Such an endeavor would have to be run under a non-profit status and have multiple paid positions to do it right and be sustainable, but that is what I think the future should look like. It would create even more incentive for new and existing breeders, allow for free trading and propagation that we need to experiment and expand, create even more interest in new varieties and make the process more human for all of us. It could also Darwinize/democratize plant variety selection. I think we need something like this for all plant breeding, not just trees. A way to communicate more among breeders and growers about specific varieties, a cultural paradigm that asks how can we support and encourage the creation of new improved varieties and an easy means to find what we want to support and give back to the effort, all while encouraging the spread and increased propagation of new varieties at any level from trading to nursery production.