Historically, many patents relate to products aligned with state and federal regulations. However, entrepreneurs involved with industries related to the growth, manufacturing and distribution of a substance approved on the state level may question how to register and maintain their intellectual property (IP) rights.
Nationwide IP protection may be difficult to retain for a federally illegal substance with variable approval across state lines, such as cannabis. Meanwhile, courts in the Centennial State have recently faced the first allegations of related patent infringement. Yet, as with any patent application, doing your due diligence may open doors to other opportunities to protect your interests.
When applying for a patent, design may trump utility
Rather than protecting usefulness, securing rights to the unique design aspects of a product may protect your interests in a volatile industry. Some of the benefits of taking a design approach to obtaining IP rights include:
- No mandatory maintenance fees
- Potential brand recognition for trademark or trade dress protection
- Fifteen years of exclusive control from the date you receive your patent
Design patents provide federal protection for your IP, without conflict with controlled substance laws you could experience with registering a cannabis product’s functionality.
Protect your designs for supplementary goods as well as your primary product offering
Within the confines of a controversial industry, you may obtain design patents on various products that relate to the use of, but do not directly involve, marijuana. You may be wise to protect your ideas for items such as:
- Storage containers
Depending on your goals, you may be able to expand your reach by marketing ancillary goods across multiple industries, thereby setting yourself up to scale if regulatory efforts decrease.
Chances are, your ultimate goal is to shelter your financial future. Regardless of which product you protect first, you may want to explore your options if you question the legality of what you are bringing to market or alleged infringement arises.
No matter how you approach protecting your IP, it is imperative to establish your rights from the start. Should they come under fire, your history of documented patents could help defend your interests in court.