Patenting Marijuana Strains: Protecting Your Business

February 23, 2017 • By

Marijuana is in the pharma and agriculture industry, which means that there is this looming shadow cast over startups, where they are bracing themselves for the arrival and total domination of big corporations with deep pockets.

It is a very real fear, and is especially likely to happen once marijuana is legalized at the federal level.

To compound on this problem, duplication and counterfeiting in the industry is another battle in itself. A lack of consistent strain quality threatens business innovation and the health of a patient.

Currently, although some states do require testing for yeast, mold, microbe, and heavy metal, there are no specific laws that standardize the consistent quality and genetics of cannabis strains used by patients.

The good news is, with more and more technological innovations at startups, cannabis businesses are not left to their own devices.

Companies that rely on unique cannabis strains or technology for survival should look to potentially patent them.

Cannabis Patenting

Patents are intellectual property rights granted by the federal government. A business owner’s patent can prevent competitors from creating, using, or selling the patented invention for a limited time – typically 20 years.

Patenting gives inventors recognition and a greater potential to make high profits.

Although the process of obtaining a plant patent can be complicated and expensive, marijuana-related inventions can be patented with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Several companies have already been granted cannabis-related patents. One example is UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals’ patents in growing and processing methodology as well as protocols for treating disease. Another example is California-based Biotech Institute’s patent on several hybrid cannabis plants.

Many growers, retailers, and manufacturers have expressed disbelief toward the patenting plants because plants are “part of nature.”

Love Earth Nature

“Oh my God, we can patent plants? How could you?”

In spite of this good-natured sentiment, it is true that almost any invention can be patented so long as it meets the basic requirements, even if the product in question is illegal under federal law.

Perhaps the most important patenting requirement to keep in mind is that a plant needs to have been engineered in such a way that it is no longer considered as part of a natural phenomenon.

Good News

In the midsts of Big Brother legal push-backs, ominous Big Corporation shadows, and fraudulent Big Counterfeiters is a glistening strain of silver-lining.

You guessed it – startups are coming to the rescue!

Startup heroes

Startups are coming to the rescue!

Phylos Biosciences developed a cannabis genotyping test that would provide a DNA fingerprint for each strain. This tool gives cannabis growers the tools they need to distinguish themselves from other growers and reduce the confusion of strain ownership.

Medicinal Genomics uses blockchain technology to “time stamp” strains among growers. The time stamps record the identity of a strain’s owner and the time it is stamped on the blockchain. Most importantly, the information on the time stamps cannot be reserved.


Learn more about Medical Genomics on our post Types of Startups Tacking the Cannabis Financing Problem.