Article Archive

double_arrow Ask an Attorney


What Our Customers Say...

Albright IP Limited
Based on 90 reviews
powered by Google
Emily Warwick
Emily Warwick
14:56 27 Jul 22
My experience with Albright IP has been flawless from start to finish. I... have never filed a patent before so I was learning everything as I went along. They have been helpful in every way possible and gone the extra mile to ensure I was kept in the loop and happy as everything was going through each step of the way. I cannot express enough how pleased I am with their service. I had the pleasure of working with Will, Abigail, and Adrian. I would recommend Albright IP to anyone looking to file a patent more
Simon Mills
Simon Mills
13:22 06 Jul 22
Super helpful advice, and really friendly service. Highly recommend... Albright for IP advice and more
Luke D.
Luke D.
11:25 23 May 22
Was a pleasure to work with Will and Melissa on a patent draft and filing.... Will took the time to understand both my software product and the commercial motivations behind the patent filing. They were extremely responsive to questions and clarifications throughout the process (availability isn't everything, but it certainly helps!).They were also very clear regarding fees, and set out a very helpful visual timeline and cost breakdown on the whole patent application process at the pre-sales stage. This emphasis on making sure I understood all aspects of the work, and having documentation to help with that, is something I didn't see with any of the other patent services I was talking to at the time. This clear communication continued throughout our interactions.Would recommend Albright IP to anyone looking to patent an invention. The patent they filed for me was for a software more
See All Reviews

Need a Product Designer?

Helpful Tips

Do I have to identify the designer?
It is possible to waive the name of the designer when filing a European Community Design, but you should be sure that you have the rights to the design

Can You Patent Cannabis Products?

by | Jan 7, 2019

Cannabis 2

Following high profile legalisation in territories around the world (for example Canada, some states in the US and limited medicinal allowability in the UK), industry and financial institutions are recognising the commercial potential of cannabis.


And where there is commercial potential, there will be a demand to protect innovations made to capitalise on the market.


However, given that recreational cannabis is presently illegal in many places (for example, most places in Europe and federally in the US), can you patent something which is illegal? Additionally, since cannabis is natural and has been known since ancient times, can you patent something which is so well known?


A quick search on a global patent database indicates over 7000 granted patents which include the word cannabis, including over 1000 in Europe and UK.


Whilst this is a very rough metric (such a simple search will include patents which are designed to prevent or detect cannabis use), it does suggest that government Patent Offices around the world are granting patents to something which is in some way illegal in their country. So, what’s going on here?


Illegality or Immorality


UK and European legislation prevents patenting of immoral inventions or inventions that go against “ordre public”.


Cannabis is illegal in most places in Europe and there might be some who would consider drug use per se to be immoral. So, why are patents granted to cannabis related products.


Both UK and European legislation have a provision that illegality should not mean that you cannot obtain a patent.


The rationale is that the patented product could be made in a country where using it was illegal, but exported it to somewhere that is legal.


The guidance given to patent examiners is that patent applications are only morally objected to if public opinion would find a patent “abhorrent”. For example, cluster bombs, and anti-personnel mines.


As such, in the UK and Europe, patent applications are rarely objected to on immoral grounds, and cannabis being illegal or banned from medical use would not stop someone obtaining a patent to it.




You cannot patent a discovery.


The cannabis plant, with its inherent chemical constituents, occurs naturally. A person would not be able to patent the naturally occurring plant or the chemicals found naturally in the product.


However, that person would be free to patent methods of extracting or using chemicals from the plant, methods of making synthetic versions of those chemicals or making other chemicals derived from those natural chemicals.


Arguments would need to be made that these chemicals or uses have industrial applicability, for example having a plausible medicinal effect. Many governments do not recognise the medicinal effect of cannabis constituents or only recognise the medicinal effect of cannabinoids (such as the US government). However, this has not followed through to various patent offices, which have granted companies protection over a variety of cannabis derived pharmaceuticals.


Additionally, the law covering the ability to patent plants obtained by means of an essentially biological process is under review in Europe. This likely means that, in the future, it may be possible to obtain a European patent to particular plants created by cross-breeding.


Therefore, we might soon expect to see new varieties of cannabis plants patented in Europe in the future.


Prior Art and Enforceability


Due to the historical and present illegality of cannabis in many places, there has been limited legitimate commercial exploitation of cannabis. As such, there are limited prior published patent documents which discuss cannabis. Given that patent examiners mostly use prior published patent documents to object to the newness of patent applications, cannabis related patent applications can be granted relatively easily.


However, this can be a double-edged sword. Whilst there may not be published patent documents, there is still plenty of public disclosure, such as in magazines, websites and folklore, which could be used to knock out a granted patent.


As such, cannabis related patent owners may be reluctant to sue infringers, for fear of having their patent knocked out. This means that cannabis patents may lack enforceability.




Whilst in Europe or the US there may not be an issue with patenting cannabis, you might be concerned that less lenient jurisdictions would presently object to patents which mention cannabis.


If you have developed new cannabis paraphernalia and wish to obtain patent protection in less lenient jurisdictions in the hope that cannabis laws become relaxed in the future, it may be worth omitting mention of cannabis in the patent application.


If the product could work equally well with tobacco, for example, then tobacco could be mentioned in the patent application instead of cannabis. Unless of course there is a specific technical advantage to the product which is only apparent when used with cannabis.




Cannabis related products are certainly patentable in many major markets worldwide, although they can throw up some unique patenting issues. Some initial strategic thought and discussion is therefore recommended before rushing to file your patent.


  • Adrian Hocking

    Adrian is a Director, as well as a qualified Engineer and an experienced British and European Patent Attorney. Adrian relishes the challenge of obtaining potent and robust patent protection in the UK, Europe and worldwide. Having dealt with over 900+ European patent applications, not to mention all his British and US patent experience, Adrian enjoys advising his diverse international client-base in all aspects of intellectual property law. LinkedIn: Adrian Hocking