Cannabis industry grappling with new patents

Glenn W. Peterson

To some people across the nation, the legalization of marijuana for recreational use might only make them think about using the substance, others know that the issue extends far beyond who can use pot, when or where. A whole new industry is taking shape in California and the other states that have legalized marijuana and one issue this industry is now facing is the protection of its intellectual property.

For a cannabis producer, IP might refer to a particular plant itself or it may refer to a method in which the plant or another product based on the plant is produced. As Cannabis Business Times explains, a company or individual may apply for a variety patent to protect the plant itself or for a utility patent which would protect a production method or process. As companies in this burgeoning industry seek patent protections, it has come to light that some businesses that touted their products as unique when operating underground may not actually have been truthful.

In order to apply for a variety or utility patent, the applicant must prove that the subject is not obvious to most people, is completely unique and new and is truly useful. One company, Biotech Institute, has applied for eight separate variety patents since the spring of 2018. The first application was submitted in March, followed by six more applications in August and an eighth application in November. It can take as long as a year-and-a-half before a patent is granted.

When granted a patent, a business may be able to earn royalties or licensing fees for the associated product or process.