Patenting Marijuana Technology

Patenting Marijuana Technology

Changes in law and policy are opening the door to tremendous growth in marijuana technology

Changes in law and policy are opening the door to tremendous growth in marijuana technology

Changes in marijuana culture are creating incredible opportunities for new marijuana technology.  Marijuana and marijuana derived products are overwhelmingly popular in the worldwide market.  This popularity is especially noteworthy because the drug is still illegal in the United States.  But the war on marijuana appears to be coming to a close.  (See video below).  And the popularity of the drug appears to be on the rise, for both medical and recreational uses.

The above changes suggest tremendous opportunities in the marijuana technology industry.  As inventors rush into that space, they should remain cognizant of the opportunities for patenting their inventions.  For example, inventors could define their inventions as new compositions, devices, or methods.

Patent Opportunities Arising from Changing Marijuana Culture

Setting aside the political issues associated with marijuana, the changing climate is creating incredible business opportunities.  According to CNBC, the legal marijuana business is already huge.  And the Huffington Post opines that those sales will quadruple by 2018.  Most of this business comes from growing and selling the plant itself.  But other industries are beginning to blossom.  For example, the marijuana food and beverage industry and marijuana device industry have experienced wild growth.

With these new industries come new products and new technology.  Inventing something new (i.e., different) gives rise to patentable subject matter.  In the case of marijuana, there are a variety of opportunities for inventing new technology.

New chemical compositions derived from marijuana.

Although the cannabis plant has been known for thousands of years, making new compositions from that plant would give rise to patentable inventions.

Although the cannabis plant has been known for thousands of years, making new compositions from that plant would give rise to patentable inventions.

Naturally occurring substances cannot be patented.  As compounds, they are not “new” because they occur in nature without human ingenuity.  However, new purified forms of the chemical components of marijuana are potentially patentable.  Similarly, new combinations of known molecules can be patented.  Regardless of political attention, the patent office will treat marijuana inventions as chemical inventions.

Given the variety of different molecules found in the cannabis plant, the potential for new combinations of those molecules is virtually infinite.  Finding new combinations of molecules having desirable properties would give rise to new compositions of matter.  These new marijuana compositions can be patented.

Marijuana Edible Product Market

New Marijuana Edibles are Patentable

New Marijuana Edibles are Patentable

According to CNBC, the legalization of medical marijuana in several states has paved the way for a budding edible medical marijuana industry. Small businesses in states such as Colorado and California are making marijuana derived treats such as candy, cookies or soda.

As we have discussed in some earlier articles, new foods (e.g., candy, cookies, cannabis beer, or soda) can be patented as compositions of matter.  New flavors of those foods could give rise to additional patents.  Given that this class of marijuana containing readymade foods is relatively young, the body of prior art is relatively small.  Less prior art makes it more likely that the foods could be defined as new compositions, increasing the likelihood that they could be patented.

Along with opportunities for patenting marijuana compositions per se comes the opportunity for patenting methods of making those new marijuana compositions.  A new food is probably made via a new method.  That new method could be claimed and patented.

New devices and methods for administering marijuana or marijuana compositions

New devices for using or administering marijuana are patentable

New devices for using or administering marijuana are patentable

Smoking marijuana has one indisputable downside—the user is smoking the plant.  Generally speaking, breathing in burning materials is bad for the user.  (Humans should not breath in things that are on fire).

Responding to this downside of smoking, the marijuana device market has grown significantly over the years.  Wikipedia describes several varieties of herbal vaporizer technologies.  And some websites, e.g., GotVape, specialize in selling commercial embodiments of the vaporizing technology.  Many devices, such as the iolite product line have been patented.  But the space still remains wide open.  Inventors of new devices should follow iolite’s lead by claiming their inventions.

Patenting methods of administering marijuana

U.S. patent law recognizes “methods” as a separate category patentable subject matter.  In addition to patenting new “devices” for administering marijuana, the inventor could pursue patent claims directed to the methods of administering marijuana by using those devices.

Changing Culture Suggests Increasing Opportunities for Patenting Marijuana

In recent years, the public opinion surrounding marijuana has changed considerably.  And it appears that the nation (and the world) will probably continue to move toward decriminalization and legalization of this plant.  One good illustration of this shift can be seen through CNN medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  This past August, he publicly changed his position on marijuana use — discussing some unparalleled medical benefits  of the drug along with an overwhelming lack of side-effects.  Here is the video:

Assuming that this trend continues, it will spawn new industries filling the void created by illegality.  Some examples are new foods, compositions, drug products, services, etc, discussed above.  The early stage of these industries makes them particularly exciting from a technology standpoint.  The technology is in its early developmental stages, so it is bound to encounter big leaps forward— pioneering inventions.  Accordingly, the marijuana technology field offers especially exciting opportunities for inventing and patenting new technology.

 

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