Natural medicine has become popular with the average consumer and has entered the mainstream discourse. While most people still raise an eyebrow at unproven practices like homeopathy and acupuncture, more people than ever before will acknowledge that certain plants have real medical value.
Medical research has also begun to support certain plant-based treatments that previously only had the support of anecdotes and tradition. Modern consumers have eagerly embraced research showing that plant-based medicine has a place in modern society. Some people hope to grow medicinal plants themselves, but the best strains and plants often come from controlled commercial environments.
If your company wants to create its own unique strain of a medicinal plant, such as cannabis, you will undoubtedly want to protect the investment you make in research and development. A single plant could require years of work and millions in research funds. Is it possible for a company to protect or patent a hybrid plant or unique crossbred specimen it creates for medical purposes?
The United States does recognize patents on unique plant genetics
Most patents deal with created items, ranging from chemical formulas to production processes. Someone who discovers a new way to make certain materials can patent their idea or creation to protect the time and effort they have invested in developing it.
A patent gives someone legal and financial control over their creations and discoveries. Whether your company uses CRISPR or similar technology to edit the genetics of plants to produce a better strain or breeds for multiple generations to create a plant with characteristics that perfectly suit your needs, you can potentially patent it. Your company can then maintain legal authority over any plants that include the patented genetics from your patent.
Proving that your hybrid or new species requires a patent can be hard
Demonstrating that what you have created is truly unique when compared with other plants in the same family often means extensive medical and botanical documentation. Your company will have to establish the specific markers or details that make your plant unique when compared with other, similar breeds, strains or hybrids. You will also have to do a search to ensure no other patents have been awarded for the same alterations or characteristics.
Getting a patent for a plant is a major step in monetizing it. Without a patent, your company’s carefully-created genetics could wind up used and crossbred by anyone, even your competitors.