The legalization of cannabis in Canada has resulted in massive investment. The North American market is already worth about $10 billion. Arcview Market Research , a marijuana research and investment firm, estimates that figure could reach $25 billion in the space of three years.
Canada is one of the first large countries to legalise cannabis for recreational use (Uruguay did so in 2013). Many investors are hoping to use Canada as a launching pad to gain access to global markets. As Tom Adams, Arcview’s managing director, observes in their market report: “Canadian licensed producers have a chance to grab first-mover advantage in a worldwide market that U.S. agricultural and pharmaceutical companies could otherwise have been expected to dominate.”
Companies and entrepreneurs hoping to attract some of those investor dollars will need to be innovative. To secure their position, they will also need to ensure that their intellectual property is protected.
Our partner Jennifer Marles recently spoke with Cannabis Life Network (CLN), about how patent, trademark, and copyright law apply to this new world of legalized cannabis.
Jennifer explained to CLN that some innovative cannabis growers might look to obtain Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) protection; this “protects the actual strain of cannabis itself if you come up with a new strain.” If you are successful in obtaining plant breeders’ rights, “nobody else can reproduce the plant”, Jennifer said.
Patents are distinct from trademarks. The former is about protecting “new functionality”, which could include a genetically modified cell of a plant. The patent-filing process typically takes about 2-3 years. Gene patenting or even filing for plant breeders’ rights is not especially common. “There have only been a few applications to date, but it’s going to become more and more important as people work on improving genetics,” Jennifer observed.
To protect their branding, entrepreneurs will need to secure a trademark. There are, however, restrictions about how cannabis products can be marketed, which will need to be taken into account. Legal problems can also arise from using a celebrity’s name without their consent or infringing on another company’s trademark.
As the market continues to attract competitors, companies and entrepreneurs will need to be strategic in how they protect their innovations.