Marijuana patents, property, ideology, incentives, and commons reaction


Speaking of marijuana legalization and drug property interests’ opposition, drug property companies want to extract rents from drug consumers, just as rents are extracted from drug consumers (currently ‘illicit’ and ‘licit’ drug consumers respectively). The idea that treating knowledge as property is necessary for innovation is at work as usual, as evinced by Patent No. 6,630,507: Why the U.S. government holds a patent on cannabis plant compounds: It’s about technology transfer, not legalization:

the existence of Patent No. 6,630,507 doesn’t signal that legalization is on the horizon […] But it does indicate what could result if cannabis were rescheduled: an explosion of marijuana-related patents

The intent behind patenting and licensing NIH discoveries is to keep technology that could potentially benefit the public from sitting idle, he said.

This sometimes requires looping in the private sector, he said. Laws made in the 1980s help entities such as universities and the government to make their discoveries accessible to others who are in a position to further the research and potentially commercialize the developments. The entities behind the discoveries typically receive payments as part of the licensing agreement.

See Bayh-Dole and worldwide IP metastasization for background on the 1980s laws referred to.

“It’s like a piece of land,” he said. “You wouldn’t build a million-dollar house on a piece of land you wouldn’t have some title to.”

On that explosion of marijuana-related patents, from April, What a Looming Patent War Could Mean for the Future of the Marijuana Industry:

Though American cannabis cultivators have long had bigger legal problems to worry about than the question of who owned the rights to potent strains like Green Crack, Strawberry Cough, Trainwreck, Girl Scout Cookies, or Alaskan Thunderfuck, Patent No. 9095554 may be the opening salvo in a new series of legal battles over innovations in marijuana breeding.

The prize could be nothing less than the commanding heights of an industry that’s projected to soon top $40 billion, with the exclusive rights to produce, sell, or license designer varieties of pot. Over the next few years, the contest could take the form of a gold rush for patents.

A well-written patent is like a declaration of war — you write a patent in a way that covers those who can sue you, and those you can sue,” said Reggie Gaudino, a Ph.D. in molecular genetics who works as director of intellectual property for Steep Hill Labs, a US firm that analyzes medical and recreational marijuana for compliance with public safety standards.

Emphasis added for correspondence with rhetoric I enjoy using: Trading off freedom, equality, and security for spectacle, as IP does, is making a tragic error and will lead to dystopia. It is of vital importance to replace IP with freedom, even for international relations: in the era with knowledge as the commanding heights of the economy, it is extremely dangerous to subject knowledge to a property regime: inequality resulting from IP is destabilizing, and worse, IP will lead to new trade wars, which could easily spiral into violent conflict.

The article concludes with a section on the Open Cannabis Project:

Some in the sector are attempting to turn the novelty requirement into an impediment for big business, or anyone else, to seek patents for existing strains of marijuana.

The Open Cannabis Project is an organization that is collecting DNA samples of cannabis strains in order to publish them in a massive database. The aim is to have a large catalog that can be used to properly classify strains and prove, on a genetic basis, that a given strain was available to the public before someone tries to take out a patent on it.

But showing just how likely continued property metastasization is, the article continues:

“We’ve been generally taking the stance that patents are stupid, and they’re not going to help anybody,” he remarked.

Holmes expressed surprise, however, that many small-time growers he spoke to were hesitant to share samples with the Open Cannabis Project because they themselves plan to secure patents someday.

“We figured everyone would love this,” he said. “But in northern California, we’ve gotten a lot of pushback. People say, ‘No, I don’t want my stuff to be in the public domain. I want to patent it.’”

The question many growers now face is whether to make use of corporate tools or seek out alternative methods to thwart the system, according to Dale Hunt, a San Diego attorney who focuses on intellectual property in life sciences, including cannabis.

“Once cannabis is legal, no one will be able to stop the patent office from granting patents on it,” including to big firms and small farmers alike, he said. “The question is, do you want to be on the sharp end of that spear, or do you want to be on the handle?”

Let’s break the spear.

Everything is against us as nearly everyone tumbles toward WPIO trying to grasp at the spear handle so at to be able to lord over everyone else.

I continue to think that large (thus concentrated) explicitly pro-commons entities that can compete against property in the market and in policy are an absolutely necessary part of the escape plan. I’m not sure how significant the Open Cannabis Project is, but at least its existence is evidence for some coordination. Godspeed.

Unfortunately the OCP seems to be purely reactionary and protective rather than innovative and competitive, the latter two, i.e., commons-based production, being needed to really displace knowledge as property from ideology, market, and policy.

In the meantime, the even lower road of simply limiting the profits of drug property interests is also necessary.