The point of US intellectual property protection is to provide priority and protection to those who innovate or discover novelty in exchange for vesting those discoveries in the public sphere after a period of time--the information is published shortly after submission and ownership is made public after 20 years for utility patents. It serves to demonstrate priority (in the sense of timing) of discovery when there is a race to innovate, and awards protection to those who are successful with a chance to control their own destiny to a certain extent.
We have made no secret that our innovations are going through utility patent application; this has been clearly stated on our website and MTAs since we started the process in 2018. The genesis of pursuing IP protection stemmed from a need to defensively demarcate our inventions in case of challenges by global ag (Monsanto etc.) or those who aspire to be purchased by them (i.e. Phylos). There was no way in hell we would build a company on breeding innovations only to be told that some other company had patented our unique approach and was now preventing us from using it--this happens every day in the breeding world! Eric and I were both born in the dark hours of the early morning, but it wasn’t yesterday. With over 1000 new cannabis patent applications in the past year alone (!!!), you’d better bet that there is fierce global competition shaping up.
Our first utility patent application was for “early” flowering F1 photoperiod hybrids that initiate flowering at the same time across the US, regardless of day length. If you are following hemp news, the number one breeding target mentioned by universities or big companies when they enter the space is “predictable flowering.” We figured out how to do this in 2016, performed large-scale field trials on improved varieties in Oregon for 2017, and filed our utility patent (priority application date 3/2018) in the first year that interstate shipping of hemp seeds was allowed. Knock-off artists were already releasing F2s of our work in 2018 (see the “great Oregon seed debacle of 2018”) and their customers complained that 25% of the plants would autoflower and another 25% wouldn’t finish until November--in addition to massive herm rates. Smart breeders recognized the general outline of our “early” breeding program and started using it without understanding the larger implications of the approach (i.e. consistent flowering in North America) or the intricacies (highly inbred parent lines, selected for very specific characteristics necessary to make the F1 progeny perform as claimed). This is exactly the type of situation that IP protection was created for--it protects both the inventors AND the consumer who will use said invention.
Our second utility patent application is for the creation of pure CBG varieties using specific alleles discovered by our company through targeted inbreeding. The claim does not prevent others from making their own pure CBG varieties if they find a unique allele to work with; the goal is to retain the ability to demonstrate provenance when another seed company magically conjures up the exact same chemotype of something we worked to create over 3 or more years, but does so within 6 months of our first public release of said chemotype (as is the case with most CBG in the market this year).
There are obviously more to come. Innovate or die. There is no “treading water” in the cannabis space. We are here to make farmers successful, not to prop up backyard seed makers knocking off our work at the expense of farmer success or to empower multinational corporations to raid our industry now that it is legal. This is the direction any company who wants to remain active in the cannabis industry has to take in order to remain relevant for more than a year; as always, we’re in this for the long haul and will continue to innovate--and protect those innovations--to ensure the collective success of the non-psychoactive cannabis market.