Today it could seem rare, but there was a time, previous to cannabis seedbanks and cannabis copyrights, when hybrids actually marked as classics only existed in a world of ideas. The same way as marble contains an sculpture inside, cannabis plants were pure landraces, from Mexico, Colombia, Afghanistan, Thailand, India… waiting to be hybridized by first generation growers.
Was back in the 80’s when Skunk, and first comercial cannabis strains, like Northern Lights or Haze, started to earn reputation in-between growers and tokers. In the 90s, the OG Kush took the streets of California, same way it happened in New York City with the Sour Diesel. Those became trademarks: aroma, taste, strength… These new hybrids had its own characteristics, and a huge comercial impact. Ever since, competitors have increased. In the current legal market of cannabis, the impact of cannabis strains is tougher than ever before. Internet is full of sites where strains are classified, described, compared and sold; and the need of deciding what is owned by who, and determine what’s new in an industry that has been on the shade for long time.
Almost all industries depend on patents. Even though, due the singular cannabis legal context, all the work done has not been able to be registered with its cannabis copyrights. There are thousands of strains that are legally owned by no one. For decades, breeders, looked how other brands used their genetics to develope new ones, or even reproduce them (and sell them under the same comercial name).
Now, the legal situation is changing progressively and more pharma companies focus their attention in cannabis; now, big corporations see in cannabis a multimillionary industry; and facing this legal abandonment situation some questions appear: Is it possible to get cannabis copyrights from genetics? And, whatever the case, Would it be positive?
Copyrights: Current situation
The current state of cannabis copyrights, or better explained, the lack of it, is a rare historic fact. Holland, back in the 70s regulated the sale of cannabis (in authorized places), gave the first cannabis copyrights register in 1996; and Medisinis, a female clone from a Skunk selected for a nactional medicinal cannabis program, was registered. Even tough, looking all over the world, not much more has been done to protect genetics.
In Spain copyrigths have no precedents relating to cannabis, and the situation is a total abandonment for growers. The case is that you can get patents to any new invention that implies an invective activity, or susceptible of any industrial application. Even though, a patent referring to a certain strain of a plant, or biological processes can’t be given, so all the strains got from crossing, or selecting, can’t be copyrighted. The only way of protecting a strain are the vegetable got rights, which can be applied for new strains, different, homogenous and stable. But legal situation of cannabis discards, for the moment, any advance in this ambit and, no matter how, this looks like a war that will only be battleled in laboratories.
In USA the panorama is somehow hopefully, specially in those states where medicinal cannabis is legal. The theory tells patents could be given to new strains, useful and not obvious. This means that the strain should present some kind of new feature that makes it useful compared to previous, in example, highly resistant against illnesses or a high content of CBD. In addition, a new strain should be significally remodeled from the genetic point of view, so it can be considered that human actions have occurred in its developement. That’s why a GMO strain could be easily copirighted, while it would be almost impossible to get a patent of any of the actual cannabis strains names we actually know.
The first preceding was set by a Colorado laboratory, when in 2015 the office of Commercial Brands and patents of USA gave the first patent to cannabis plants. The patented strain presented a unique profile of terpenes and specific cannabinoid chemotypes. Since then, there are few open applications in the goverment database. The biggest problem, more than legal, is that patent applies of this type are both: expensive and slow. So there is a huge disadvantage for small breeders compared with big corporations.
Cannabis philosophy VS Big Corporations
As cannabis legal market becomes multimillionary industry, the intellectual value of strains makes it more evident. Breeders that due legal reasons had kept annonimus, have seen as this partial security has filled arks of their successors.
Obviously, when other companies start to breed with your genetics lines without needing to justify to anyone, the think start to gets serious. Even though the genetic protection interest is not purely economical. Breeders claim a recognition, as well as the oportunity to be able to continue with their own lines, cutting the legal control of their strains by others.
There are many that are against cannabis copyrights. The cannabis philosophy has bee always moved by other laws. So every single breeder knows that to be able to create something, he needs something previously existing, at least one strain; so the strains that we know today won’t exist if previously genetics hadn’t been shared. At this moment of the film, it is impossible to determine what is new, and who owns it.
But we should be realistic, the market will be regulated, sooner or later and, if breeders don’t bet for patents, they are leaving the door open for coporation interests that will step on them: they will loose their intellectual property, and will be excluded from the industry.
Closer future of cannabis copyrights
Looks like the closer future goes thorugh genetic documentation. In USA there are companies that work on it. This is the case of Phylos Bioscience, in Portland, a genetics laboratory that works to understand the evolutive history of cannabis, favoring a viable industry and protecting the strain diversity. From a sample sent the proceed with genetic identity tests, identifying the plant, its sex, and its characteristics; scanning its origin, and show what kind of relation has with other strains.
These type of analysis can be useful for tokers, and also for breeders. For first ones because this way they will know what are they buying and consuming. For breeders because it could turn into a valid form of protecting your strains, document them, and be sure that no one else could patent your plants, as all data registered become publicly domain. All these people working to get interesting strains, unique or with medicinal interest could genetically certify their plants, without entering into a cannabis copyrights fight nor forbiding future generation of breeder to use them.
NO matter if we are pro or against, the appearance of big corporations in cannabis market is a reality. On one side these companies can play a very important rol in the process of rejection of cannabis; on the other side small producers could be susceptible of kept apart of market.
Is this good for the evolution of cannabis industry? Controversy is given. tradition, industrial overexplotation, the quality of the product, beneffits of tokers and pations, regulations… There are many factors that weight on each side of the scale. The process will be tough and with controversy. For the moment, breeders from over the world, protect yourself the best you can.