Patenting cannabis genes: Three ways to protect new cultivars

Many cannabis companies spend significant resources developing new cannabis cultivars or refining popular strain genetics. As they do so, more and more are looking for strategies to protect those investments. Plant patents for purportedly novel cannabis plants are increasingly common, but are plant patents really the best way to protect cannabis genes?

In addition to traditional security measures, there are three types of intellectual property available that may be used to protect new cannabis strains: (1) plant patents, (2) utility patents, and (3) the Plant Variety Protection Act. Each option has its own set of benefits and comes with its own particular registration requirements.

Plant patents for cannabis genes
Plant patents are one potential option to protect a newly invented cannabis cultivar. Plant patents can protect new plant varietals that are capable of asexual reproduction.

Drafting and prosecuting plant patent applications is relatively superficial compared to other patent types, making plant patents cheap and efficient to obtain. But the trade-off, and the reason why plant patents are not very popular for cannabis or other hybridized crops, is that the scope of protection that plant patents afford is extremely limited. Plant patents only cover genetically identical copies reproduced asexually from the claimed plant.

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