“The bottom line is transparency,” says Steph Barnhart, the Cannabis Classic’s longtime program director. “We took the opportunity to stand beside the farmers we work with, and also to update our own data privacy policies.”
In a pseudonymous post published earlier this year in High Times , a disillusioned former Phylos employee described being bamboozled into pushing the company line when talking with growers. The ex-staffer claimed “the brass at the top of the company didn’t give a shit about the [cannabis] community.” The former employee wrote:
The USPTO statement also noted that patent applicants are “under duty of candor” to provide anything they know about potential competing claims, and there are also legal means by which members of the public can challenge the validity of an existing patent.
Former Phylos employee speaks out
“We keep hearing rumors—so and so lives way out in the Mendocino hills, he’s been growing this and that for 30 years without stopping, never hybridized it. And so we’ll send people out to track it down or try to get word to them. It’s not easy. People are a little nervous about this kind of thing, of course.”
As anyone familiar with corporate agribusiness knows, however, it’s not only entirely possible to patent a plant, it’s commonplace. Patents are issued for GMO corn varieties resistant to specific pesticides. Patents cover Honeycrisp apples bred for extra sweetness. Once a plant is patented, nobody can legally grow anything that falls under that patent without acquiring the permission of the patent holder. And that typically requires a fee.
In September 2014, Crawford was serving on the Oregon Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, and also teaching at Oregon State University. After reading an article in The Oregonian that profiled Phylos, he got in touch and arranged for a tour of their lab.
By registering their cannabis strains with Phylos, individual growers and breeders hoped to establish the prior art required to block any future patent claims on those same strains.
Patents as Indicators of Corporate Priorities
Source: The Open Cannabis Project
According to Statista in cooperation with New Frontier Data, 44% of cannabis-related patents filed in the United States between 1976 and 2017 fell into the “plant biology” category, with 25% in the “medical/pharmaceutical” category and the remaining share of patents split between other categories including testing/process method and new product formulation.
OCP hopes that documenting cannabis plants will help to protect cannabis biodiversity and keep the marijuana industry “culturally and economically diverse.”
Patent data can provide a useful indicator of activity across a wide variety of industries. Here, we examine the patent portfolios of several major corporations rumored to be entering the cannabis game.