MARIJUANA PATENTS :: December 22, 2016 | Cannabis Sativa, Inc. (OTCQB:CBDS) made a blockbuster announcement on Wednesday. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) awarded the Company’s wholly-owned subsidiary with a patent for its unique strain of cannabis, “Ecuadorian Sativa.” This landmark development represents one of the first few patents awarded for a cannabis plant containing significant amounts of THC (the first, Patent No. 9095554, was issued on August 4, 2015). In the words of Cannabis Sativa President David Tobias, “This is a major accomplishment and is a tribute to the foresight and perseverance of management to solidify Cannabis Sativa’s contribution to the maturing Cannabis industry.”
Cannabis, Innovation, and the Need for IP
“Patents add fuel to the fire of genius.” —Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President
Protecting intellectual property continues to be a high priority in the cannabis industry. Patents and trademarks for new, innovative cannabis products, including novel strains of the cannabis plant, can help to protect and reward individual inventors and artisans and, thereby, help to foster innovation and, ultimately, progress. When you have a patent that is owned by an individual or company, such as Cannabis Sativa Inc, that is in the position to take that patent to the next level, by bringing a new, exciting strain of cannabis into the hands of consumers across the country, for example, then you have a situation where everyone wins. Marijuana patents and trademarks can also help small businesses compete with giant corporations—pharmaceutical, alcohol, and tobacco behemoths that are widely believed to be watching the emerging marijuana industry with salivating interest, and which will inevitably begin to muscle their way in the moment prohibition ends.
Other than working hard now to develop relationships with a base of loyal and informed customers, while working collaboratively with existing marijuana businesses; intellectual property remains the most effective way for small businesses to protect themselves from the looming war with these large corporations. In fact, for those cannabis entrepreneurs that hope to survive and thrive far into the future, the focus ought to be less on the incoming administration in Washington, and more on the fierce competition that the end of marijuana prohibition portends.
The Current Challenge
The CBDS patent announcement came hard on the heels of a stinging rejection by the USPTO of JUJU Joints’ application for a trademark to protect their own cannabis-related intellectual property—specifically the name “JUJU Joints,” and their slogan, “powered by JUJU.” JUJU appealed the decision, but their rejection was later affirmed. If the experience of other cannabis companies is any indication, JUJU Joints might have gotten around the rejection by registering their brand as a food or clothing company, or some other classification that suits the company but is not currently illegal under federal law. The problem that the USPTO had, according to High Times, was that JUJU’s trademark application was marijuana-specific.
But this raises an obvious question: Why did the USPTO award a patent to CBDS for a cannabis strain, but deny a trademark to JUJU for cannabis vaporizers?
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any real rhyme or reason for the difference. But there is a pattern. According to attorney Bob Morgan, who has extensive experience in the cannabis industry, “While trademarks continue to be denied for cannabis-related marks, patents for cannabis products hold promise.” What’s more, while patents for high THC strains of cannabis—such as the one recently awarded to CBDS—remain exceptionally rare, the USPTO appears to be at least somewhat more inclined to issue patents for cannabis plants that are low in THC, but high in CBD.
This, of course, is only the beginning of the U.S. government’s contradictory policies in regards to marijuana’s Schedule I status. The government, for example, refuses to take the steps necessary to allow banks to accept cash from marijuana businesses because those businesses are illegal under federal law. Yet, the government has no problem at all taking the cash from those same marijuana businesses in the form of tax revenue.
Perhaps one of the most surprising contradictions is that the U.S. government itself owns marijuana patents. The USPTO issued patent #6630507 to the Department of Health and Human Services on February 2, 2001. Given the text of the U.S. government’s own cannabis patent (as follows below), and the fact that the federal government
continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance (which is explicitly defined as having “no currently accepted medical use”) the lack of logical consistency flies in the face of what any reasonable American could be expected to endure:
“The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”
Where Do We Go from Here?
The solution, of course, is not for the U.S. government to continue to deny reality and ignore the medical science behind their own cannabis patent. The solution is not to stifle innovation, hinder job creation, or put the nation at a disadvantage against foreign inventors and global competitors. The solution is to overcome the fears and propaganda of the failed war on drugs. The solution is to unleash the talent and innovation of the American people, and tap into the miraculous power of the cannabis plant. The solution is to reschedule marijuana today.
John C Welch – Staff Writer