Protecting industry secrets sparks high competition and patent wars.
The legalization of cannabis (and hemp) has spiraled down many interesting rabbit holes, one of which is the evolving pursuit of plant patents and protections. A lot is riding on botanical invention within a global industry expected to reach nearly 100 billion USD by 2027 (15.26 billion hemp and 73.6 billion legal cannabis).
But cannabis is an industry built on the backs of clandestine breeding programs. Furthermore, many cultivators are still passionate about patient-controlled medicine. The growing drive for cannabis and hemp plant patents pose an ethical dilemma to the sector.
PLANT PATENTS PROTECT THE CORPORATE SIDE OF THE INDUSTRY
Both the backyard breeder and the industrial-scale producer can easily breed new cannabis cultivars. The main difference is the investment, as the producer pumps much more into the program than the backyard breeder. A new strain, with exceptional disease resistance, an exciting cannabinoid profile, or other unique characteristics, can provide exponential returns. A commercial grower lays their money, name, and future on the line with these genetic inventions. Financially speaking, it makes sense to protect these new botanical strains against the competition, and have a chance to reap the financial returns.
This need to protect the financial investment is the driving force behind plant patents. At the most elemental level, a patent provides financial protections to the inventor (in this case, the breeder). Upon approval, a patent ensures that the inventor can hold exclusive rights to the invention for the life of the patent. Whether it’s a new technology, pharmaceutical, or a unique cultivar, the same principle holds.
Although other crops have long had the option of plant patent protection, this is a relatively new development for hemp (and still not on the table for cannabis). As patent lawyer Jeremy Kapteyn discussed with KUNR in 2019, “the race is on for cannabis producers to secure the rights to their inventions.” In his opinion, protections like these help legitimize an emerging industry, meaning patents will quickly transform cannabis from a back yard, black market crop into an all-out-corporate industry.
Published: August 12, 2020
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