TREND: Green patents

Cannabis for medical and recreational use is still subject to heated social, political, and legal discussions. Even so, it is obvious that the industry and business potential of Cannabis products are growing rapidly. This is evident in the number of cannabis-related patent applications filed in the US and Europe.

In a number of European countries and several states in the US, legislation for cannabis has softened. As a result, firms and entrepreneurs have begun to file for the rights to use cannabinoids from the cannabis plant in various new products.

Cannabis patents are relevant in several industries

There are probably over 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Some of them have psychoactive effects, such as the well-known cannabinoid THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), while others alone have therapeutic effects as is the case with another well-known cannabinoid, namely CBD (Cannabidiol).

The many compounds of the cannabis plant are thus relevant in the development of both medical and recreational products, and besides the plant itself, there is a wide range of other cannabis-related products and uses that are patentable.

Currently, the patent activity is mainly focused around cannabinoids and derivatives of these compounds for medical applications. This involves natural extracts, chemically modified cannabinoids extracted from the plant, and synthetically produced derivatives etc.

However, we also see some activity around cannabis-related products for recreational purposes. As legislation has softened, the business opportunities and perspectives have become clear to many firms. On that note, we expect further growth in the patenting activities.

Can you patent something illegal?

Although cannabis-related products are far from being legal in all European countries, it is in fact possible to obtain a European patent that covers and protects cannabis-related products and their uses in all of the individual member states in the EU. Furthermore, it is possible, under certain circumstances, to patent cannabis plants in Europe.

Thus, it is relatively simple for European firms to patent products related to cannabis and, not least, to enforce their rights. In the United States, it is far more complicated.

In some states in the US, Cannabis for medical and/or recreational purposes is legal. However, the products remain illegal at a federal level. For this reason, patenting cannabis-related products is not as simple in the United States as it is in Europe.

The US Patent Office (USPTO) allows patenting of cannabis-related products in the United States, but it remains uncertain whether patent rights can be enforced at a federal level before federal courts.

Trial cases are currently being processed to set a precedent for enforcing patent rights for cannabis-related products in the United States. After all, having a patent is pointless if you cannot enforce it and protect it against infringement.

A cannabis patent is a long-term, strategic choice

While it may seem paradoxical to protect products and uses that are still illegal in most countries, it can in fact make sense to think about patenting right now.

With a patent on a cannabis-related product, you reserve your spot in a future market, which will probably become a quite lucrative one both in Europe and the United States.

In fact, several firms have already applied for protection with the aim of ensuring their investments in the event of cannabis-related products becoming legalised.

Need advice?

Are you considering joining the green trend? If so, we can help you create an overview of your options on how to go on the market without infringing on the rights of others.

Whether you need a market analysis (a so-called freedom-to-operate analysis) or a detailed IPR strategy, we are ready to help you in the transition phase from idea to business.