What is Open Cannabis Project (OCP)?
OCP is a nonprofit that’s fiscally sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS.org). Our motivation is to help craft growers to protect their intellectual property (IP) and to promote genetic diversity of the cannabis plant. A primary component of OCP is publishing documentation of existing cannabis plants and their properties – creating a record of the many varieties humans and nature have cultivated throughout our long history with this plant. Cannabinoid, terpene, and genetic lab results provide exactly this kind of record.
Through aggregating, sharing, and publishing an open data set of cannabis data, Open Cannabis Project is filling this public documentation gap. This will bring us closer to accomplishing two very important goals:
• Creating documentation of prior art for cannabis. Publishing time stamped proof of the existence of a certain type of cannabis plant helps to ensure that patents are not granted on plants that already exist in the public domain- which is the vast majority of them.
• Creating an open source data set for use by scientists, researchers, students, and the general public. With access to accurate data, we can have more informed and transparent conversations about cannabis properties, cannabis data and data standards, and intellectual property issues around cannabis plants.
Why should I share my data with OCP?
Sharing your data with OCP helps in our effort to create prior art documentation for cannabis. Sufficient evidence of prior art makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the patent office to grant a patent on a plant that is similar to yours. This kind of defensive documentation is a simple and inexpensive way to help protect your IP from overly broad patents.
By sharing your data, you are also contributing to a data set that can be used by scientists and researchers, helping the public to gain a greater understanding of the diversity of cannabis varieties on the market. Are all Blue Dreams the same? Probably not. It would be amazing to see and analyze hundreds or thousands of samples to find out, specifically, just how similar or different they are.
Is sharing my data with OCP some kind of registration or certification program?
No. OCP only handles data and documentation, which cannot be used alone for a registration or certification.
Certifications and registration programs require the handling of genetic material, connecting that genetic material to tests and reports, and making determinations about the newness, uniqueness, and/or ownership of a given plant. This is a much larger operation than just data collection.
That said, there is demand to create a system like this, or a network of systems working on genetic preservation, seed cataloguing, and similar endeavors. If you have ideas or know people who are working on these kinds of projects, please get in touch – we’d love to collaborate.
Why is my data shared anonymously?
Sharing data with an open data set means that the data can be shared with anyone, for any purpose. We are uninterested in that purpose being to incriminate you, or to be used against you in any way.
We’re also uninterested in hosting any more identifiable information about you than we have to on a shared server. We do our best to be secure, but if a data breach can happen to TransUnion, it can happen to a small nonprofit like ours. Again, we are uninterested in aggregating data only for it to be used against you, particularly as a result of a data breach. #nothanks
If my data is anonymous, how does this protect my IP?
When a patent application is issued, it goes to an examiner, whose job is to determine whether the invention described is new or unique enough to patent. Using verifiable documentation – in this case, lab results – we can provide accurate information about the range and diversity of cannabis plants that exist in the public domain.
It matters not, in this scenario, who the inventor is – only that the invention (in this case, a plant) exists.
Why is all of this so confusing?!
Because prohibition + IP law for plants = a snakes’ nest.
In seriousness, plants like corn have government-funded, university-run programs designed to document and catalogue them, and even map their genomes and make that information available to the public. Cannabis, thanks to prohibition, does not – at least not until this data collection effort.
Despite this lack of documentation and federal illegality, cannabis is subject to the same rules as any other plant when it comes to IP law for plants – namely:
• Patent law (US, per the Plant Patent Act and other patent-related regulations)
• Plant Variety Protection (PVP)(US)
• Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR)(Canada & elsewhere), or
• Other registration bodies that are part of the Union for the Protection of New Varieties (UPOV)(international, based in Geneva).
These organizations and programs do not consider legality when they consider the newness or uniqueness of a cannabis variety (or, in the case of the USPTO, the legality of any other invention).
Here are some other factors that complicate the matter.
• Because cannabis is still federally illegal in the US and elsewhere, it’s possible to get into legal trouble through attempting to gain intellectual property protection.
• Because cannabis is still federally illegal in the US, national seed repositories will not accept cannabis seeds for PVP. Some state repositories will accept hemp seeds, however…
• Because of their highly hybridized and heterozygous nature, most cannabis seeds are not stable enough to qualify for PVP or PBR.
• Finally, because most cannabis cultivars and varieties are too old to be considered “novel,” they do not qualify for patenting, PVP, PBR, or other UPOV registrations at this time anyway.
This leaves few options for protecting intellectual property for cannabis plants, particularly in the US and Canada. Defensive documentation (what we’re doing) and a proper licensing framework (including open source licenses) are the best options remaining. Any option you choose should be done in consultation with a lawyer who is licensed to practice in the jurisdiction in question.
Another note: This complicated system also points to a need for the cannabis community to create alternative IP, archiving, and registration systems – ideally, systems based on the ethics of the community, that also have legal teeth. If you have ideas or know of people who are working on this, please get in touch – we’d love to collaborate.
What if I want to link my chemical lab result to a genetic lab result?
Great question. We don’t have a dialed-in system for that yet, but when we do we’ll announce it. Sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop.
Why can’t I just send you my lab report PDF?
The likelihood of human error is too high. We need for our data to be accurate to be useful, and unfortunately humans are a bit more prone to these kind of errors that computers are. Computers are also error-prone when it comes to reading PDFs, requiring people-power to check all entries. For both reasons, OCP is not working with PDF-reading technology at this time.
If you’re a developer who is interested in helping us to solve this or another technical problem, please let us know your skills and availability at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking for an answer to a question that you don’t see answered here? Please get in touch.