Intellectual Property of Cannabis
Intellectual Property Rights for Cannabis Companies
As more Canadian businesses begin legal operations in Canada, intellectual property rights become more of a concern for retailers and producers alike. Protecting cannabis IP involves patent, copyright, trademark and design considerations.
While the regulation of legalized marijuana (for medical use) has been in operation for the better half of the last 18 years, the interest and ownership of cannabis accessories and products is relatively new. For instance, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has updated its service manual to account for cannabis-related products and goods. Products that have been added to the manual include cannabis grinders, cannabis oil for various purposes, live and dried cannabis, and baked cannabis goods amongst other items.
Unsurprisingly, Canadian cannabis businesses have been working to expand their brands while protecting their interests. As the line between manufacturer and plant grower rights becomes blurred in the absence of registered or demonstrated interests, the need for experienced intellectual property lawyers is ever more pressing.
How do Patents differ from Trademarks and Copyrights?
Applied-for trademarks and copyrighted work are searchable on CIPO’s online Trademarks database while patent applications are not published until 18 months have passed since filing. This means that the number of cannabis patents that are currently being processed are unknown.
Key Facts about Cannabis IP:
- Marijuana plants cannot be patented
- Varieties and strains of marijuana plants can be patented
- The Trade-Marks Act and the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act allow the owner of the Mark to register exclusive rights to specific cannabis plant varieties
- Industrial design, as with any other non-cannabis product, can be protected. This means that the packaging, elements, and colours used, can be protected
- Cannabinoids- for medical products and services can be protected in patent medical applications
While there are a number of successful medical cannabis patents filed in other jurisdictions, medical cannabis patents are still a relatively new phenomenon in comparison to traditional patents.
As the qualification for the registration of different strains and varieties of cannabis plants may require a DNA analysis amongst other requirements, patenting or trademarking your product can become a complex effort. Without the skill and experience of a qualified IP attorney, your application could be rejected even though it may have merit.