Working in the cannabis industry, it's not uncommon to hear fearful whispers of the future “Monsantization” of the industry. Most are familiar with doomsday scenarios involving a large corporate conglomerate holding a patent portfolio the size of an encyclopedia comes barreling through the cannabis industry door on a hostile takeover warpath. The industry is largely dismissive of the hazard, and it’s not uncommon to hear the adage, “Cannabis is federally illegal, how will they enforce it in federal court?”
While it is true, cannabis businesses are not federally recognized or protected; circumstances could change in an instant. Now, with Canada going legal federally, and with United Cannabis Corp’s recent filing against Pure Hemp Collective, many believe it is high time to start paying closer attention to the industry’s patent practices and issuing dire warnings. Leading the way, Stephen Martin is a co-founder of the cannabis industry’s first patent collective, aptly named “The Gene Pool.”
Cannabis Tech spoke with Gene Pool Co-Founders Jay Yonamine and Stephen Martin to discuss the cannabis patent landscape, and what industry players can do to prepare.
The Coming Storm
Many in the industry think patents won’t be enforceable in court due to the illegal status of cannabis in the eyes of the federal government. As a banned substance, cannabis does not get the same federal law protections as other products. However, Martin points out, this isn’t a safety net, “That’s wishful thinking, and with United Cannabis Corp’s lawsuit against Pure Hemp Collective and the recent PTAB ruling on GW, we know it’s false. The USPTO isn’t going to exempt you from patent damages the same way the IRS isn’t going to exempt you from paying taxes.”
The Gene Pool Initiative
Martin explained The Gene Pool works to set patent-based standards in extraction and cannabis. “In addition to helping set verified third-party standards based on patented technologies,” he said. “If players in cannabis and hemp find themselves with an interesting technology they can approach us for valuation and filing assistance.”
Additionally, patent holders are also encouraged to look at how The Gene Pool can help protect their assets, as well. Martin stated, “We help facilitate deal flow within the pool. If a patent holder brings their asset to the pool, we’ll help them negotiate licensing deals with our other members as well as find them companies outside the pool who might be interested. We also help inventors research and file their patents properly, so they get top-notch patents instead of some of the highly-broad but highly-weak patents you’re seeing come to the forefront now.”
The Gene Pool is a unique venture aimed a providing a cooperative approach. “We modeled our company based on Standards firms like MPEG-LA,” Martin proclaimed. If you’d like to find out more, go to www.genepool.io and reach out to the experts at The Gene Pool.