Due to the legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis in Canada, a new field of intellectual property focused on cannabis patents has opened up. These patents, which can cover inventions like new cannabis-derived drugs, genetic strains, edibles and much more, give their inventors the exclusive right to use and sell them in Canada for a set period—typically about 20 years.
For the pharmaceutical industry in particular, cannabis patents hold a lot of potential since there is much interest in the plant’s medical benefits. If you’re interested in pursuing regulatory affairs training, read on to learn a few facts about cannabis patents in Canada.
Breeders’ Rights: What Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs Hopefuls Should Know
Unlike American patent law, Canadian patent law doesn’t allow for “higher life forms,” such as cannabis plants themselves, to be patented. This ban leads many people to mistakenly believe that companies cannot apply for exclusive intellectual property rights over new cannabis crossbreeds. However, there is still a way for new breeds of cannabis plants to be protected, thanks to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act (PBRA).
Under the PBRA, companies that crossbreed new varieties of cannabis can apply for a breeders’ right, which gives the breeder exclusive rights to use, produce and sell that variety of plant for a period of around 20 to 25 years. These exclusive breeders’ rights are important to be aware of, since a pharmaceutical company that develops a new cannabis crossbreed which may have medical benefits will want assurances that it will have exclusive rights over that crossbreed.
Many Patents Will Focus on the Pharmaceutical Benefits of Cannabis
If you’re considering pursuing a pharmaceutical regulatory affairs program, you may be interested to know that many cannabis patents relate to pharmaceutical uses. That’s because pharmaceutical cannabis patents are expected to be the most lucrative of all such patents. Public interest in the medical benefits of cannabis is currently high, while research into those benefits is still in its early stages. As a result, there is a lot of potential for pharmaceutical companies to discover new health benefits of cannabis, and those benefits will likely be in high demand.
For example, one way a pharmaceutical company could patent a cannabis product is by combining different cannabinoids—the chemical compounds found in cannabis—to create new therapeutic drugs. Currently, only two cannabinoids—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)—have been widely researched, but the cannabis plant contains more than 100 other cannabinoids that are not well understood. More research into these cannabinoids could provide pharmaceutical companies plenty of potential to develop patentable drugs that are in demand.
Most Cannabis Patents Are Owned by Major Pharmaceutical Companies
One way of gauging the pharmaceutical industry’s interest in cannabis patents is by observing which companies currently hold the most cannabis patents. One report found that 7 out of the top 10 cannabis patent holders in Canada are major multi-national pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Merck & Co. and Sanofi-Aventis. This is promising news if you choose to complete a regulatory affairs diploma and plan on working with cannabis in the pharmaceutical industry, as it indicates that big pharma is taking an active interest in developing cannabis-related drugs and therapies.
Are you interested in working with cannabis-related drugs in a pharmaceutical career?
Contact Toronto Institute of Pharmaceutical Technology to learn about our regulatory affairs courses.