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Patenting Cannabis – Who owns The Plant?

First of all, how can anyone or any entity obtain a patent on a living substance that grows in the wild and has been known for about 5,000 years?

In a landmark 1980 opinion, then-U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote that eligibility for patent protection does not depend on whether the substance is living or nonliving. Rather, the key question is whether the inventor has altered nature’s handiwork to the extent the resulting invention can be deemed a non-naturally occurring substance.

U.S. patent number US6630507B1US, held by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has long been a point of contention for cannabis activists. The patent covers “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants,” and since it’s filing in 1998, the patent has been the surrounded in controversy and conspiracy theories. Why would the U.S. government hold a patent for cannabis, yet continue to keep it as Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act?

Beyond the conspiracy theory of cannabis patents, the U.S. government isn’t the only company protecting intellectual property rights in cannabis. There are nearly 60,000 patents issued covering types of cannabis innovation and another 90,000 applications in process. The burgeoning marijuana industry is a gold rush for patent law firms around the country. Marijuana businesses are scrambling to protect their intellectual property rights, in a sector that until recently was relatively unprotected.

U.S. courts have ruled that the Patent and Trademark Office should treat the mundane – bicycles or can openers – and the controversial – such as birth-control devices, genetically altered mice and ammunition – the same way.

That is why all strains of flowering plants, be they tomatoes or cannabis, bud on the same even playing field.

Therefore, a patent on a particular strain of pot may be used to stop someone from growing or selling it, even in a state that has legalized weed. In theory, patent owners may sue to stop anyone from growing specific kinds of patented pot plants in any state or territory – whether or not pot is legal there.

Smaller breeders, scientists who alter naturally occurring marijuana plants for medicinal purposes, fear that bioagricultural companies like Monsanto and Syngenta will arm themselves with cannabis-based patents and deploy their considerable economic power to position themselves as dominant forces in a promising market.

The possibilities for patents in the marijuana industry are much broader than one might first assume, considering patents don’t strictly apply to strictly physical inventions. According to Knobbe Martens, an intellectual property, and technology law firm, some current areas to take into consideration for cannabis-related intellectual property rights are:

  • New and genetically modified Strains of Cannabis
  • New methods of identification and characterization of the many chemical compounds of cannabis; the detection and analysis.
  • New methods of extraction and processing.
  • New cannabinoid derived compositions
  • New consumption devices
  • New advances in marijuana as medicine
  • New innovations in cannabis cultivation

Coming soon to a lab near you? Genetically modified cannabis

When the mere mention of genetically altered foods causes your dinner guests to shift in their chairs, you’d expect a bumpy road ahead when it comes to researchers tinkering with their cannabis.

“We could make the cannabis resistant to things like mould, powdery mildew and pests without any of the regular horticultural interventions,” says Ryan Lee, founder of Chimera Genetic Resource Management, a longstanding cannabis seed company, and Chemovar Consulting, a genetic research firm that specializes in breeding and cultivar development.

“Through biotechnology, you could even change the chemical pathways in the plant,” Lee says, explaining that growers could potentially adjust CBD and THC levels much quicker than with traditional breeding methods.

When growers (generally anyone with the capacity to grown cannabis) were asked if they would genetically modify their cannabis to resist grey mold and powdery mildew, 73 percent of responding users thought it was worth it.

Gene-editing techniques, such as CRISPR-Cas9, in which geneticists can knock out certain genes in a genome to express a desired trait, has been applied to everything from apples that don’t brown to soybeans that produce more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

It’s a promising future for cannabis, but not yet within reach, said Daniela Vergara, a postdoctoral research associate researching cannabis genomics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

At the Hyasynth Biologicals laboratory in Montreal, scientists are working on the latest frontier in the cannabis business: genetically engineering the active ingredients in marijuana and then patenting them.

“Cannabis is going to be like any other commodity controlled by large technology players and agribusiness. It’s where this is headed.”

Jim Thomas, a spokesperson for technology watchdog the ETC Group

Hyasynth is part of a new wave of genetic engineering firms across Canada and the U.S., splicing and dicing molecules found in cannabis plants, hoping to create new recreational products and medicines to treat pain, cancers, insomnia, epilepsy and a host of other health problems.

“Companies are using genetic sequences taken from natural cannabis strains, altering them and building a product that will eventually disrupt natural markets in cannabis,” said Jim Thomas, a spokesperson for Val-David, Que.-based technology watchdog the ETC Group.

Companies have already obtained patents for a transgenic cannabis plant that enhances seed yields and growth and a transgenic hemp plan that’s more salt tolerant, according to government data provided to CBC News.

Other patents are pending for new genetic alterations to cannabis, including:

  • A transgenic hemp product that increases pest resistance in plants.
  • A heat-resistant, transgenic cannabis plant.
  • Drought-tolerant cannabis plants.
  • A transgenic cannabis cell that alters how the cannabis plant produces polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Blockchain technology will be used to patent cannabis

When you walk into a dispensary in any one of the 25 states where medicinal and/or recreational marijuana is legal, you’ll likely see display cases lined with a dozen or more strains of weed. Many of these strains, like Pineapple Express or Blue Dream, will sound familiar, but is the Granddaddy Purp you buy in Colorado the same stuff your guy in California is selling you?

To answer this question, a company called Medicinal Genomics is creating a repository of cannabis genomes which are stored on the Bitcoin blockchain. The company hopes that its efforts will standardize strain nomenclature so that customers always know what they’re getting while also defending the intellectual property rights of those who breed new strains of weed.

There are more than 1,400 individual strains of cannabis grown worldwide, and up to 500 known chemical compounds in a single cannabis plant, leaving a number of varieties still open to ‘discovery’.

Large growers are beginning to think about securing intellectual property rights for their strains, which became a possibility in August 2015 when the first patent for a strain of weed was filed at the US Patent Office.

As might be expected, Medicinal Genomics has sparked a race among growers to sequence their strains and register them on the blockchain. While this is not the same thing as getting a patent from the US Patent Office for that strain and thus having IP rights for that strain, it does protect that grower in the event that someone else files a patent for that particular strain.

For $600, growers can now buy a DNA purification kit for one of their plants and ship the genetic material to one of Medicinal Genomics partner labs for sequencing. Once the sequencing is done, scientists at Medical Genomics will compare the strain’s genome to a reference strain—in their case, this is Purple Kush—and record its genetic deviations from this reference to differentiate it as a unique strain.

Another company ( TheraCann ) has been working to ensure that the weed or oil you take in is legal and traceable and they have a number of products that shows how weed travels via live maps. To that end they have added these DNA tags to TruTrace Technologies blockchain-based StrainSecure database. The company began as BLOCKStrain and is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. It is currently traded over the counter and it does not have a token.

This partnership is, as one would assume, a no-brainer. Connecting DNA tags to the blockchain is one of the interesting ways to track almost any type of consumable – from food to candy to ganja – from farm to bowl. Interestingly, the system also protects a farmer’s intellectual property by ensuring genomes are traced.

Since the cannabis industry is new and a standard has yet to be determined for the protection of rights and validating the supply chain, growers and consumers are left to hope that blockchain will be the technology that can help to establish fair standards moving forward.

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Robots To Displace 20 Million Jobs By 2030

Robots are on track to wipe out almost a tenth of the world’s manufacturing jobs with the brunt borne by lower-income areas in developed nations, Oxford Economics says.

While automation should boost the economy as a whole, it is likely to create greater inequality as employment losses are concentrated in certain industries and countries.

The forecast set to be released Wednesday highlights growing concerns that automation and robots, while offering economic benefits, are disproportionately killing low-skill jobs and aggravating social and economic stress.

The use of robots is on the rise: At this point, every new robot that is installed displaces 1.6 manufacturing workers on average, according to the Oxford Economics model. In lower-skilled regions, job losses will be twice as high as those in higher-skilled regions, even in the same country, the study concluded.

The research comes amid intense debate on the rise of technologies such as self-driving cars and trucks, robotic food preparation and automated factory and warehouse operations and their impact on employment.

Many analysts point out that automation has generally led to more job creation than it destroys, but that in recent years the trend has created a skills gap that leaves out many workers.

Oxford Economics also found the more repetitive the job, the greater the risk of its being wiped out.

Jobs which require more compassion, creativity or social intelligence are more likely to continue to be carried out by humans “for decades to come”, it said.

“Preparing for and responding to the social impacts of automation will be the defining challenge of the next decade.”

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Billionaires Demand Wealth Tax

They’re an eclectic bunch, some of the US most privileged heirs alongside entrepreneurs who have made spectacular fortunes in real estate, finance and Silicon Valley. But collectively they’re united on the need to tax more of the richest Americans’ assets.

George Soros, heiresses to the Pritzker fortune, Abigail Disney and Facebook Inc. co-founder Chris Hughes are among those calling for a wealth tax to help address income inequality and provide funding for climate change and public health initiatives.

Soros and the other signatories claim that a tax of 2 cents on the dollar on assets over $50 million, and an additional tax of 1 cent on the dollar on assets over $1 billion, could generate $3 trillion in tax revenue over ten years.

The complete list of signatories includes: Louise J. Bowditch, Robert S. Bowditch, Abigail Disney, Sean Eldridge, Stephen R. English, Agnes Gund, Catherine Gund, Nick Hanauer, Arnold Hiatt, Chris Hughes, Molly Munger, Regan Pritzker, Justin Rosenstein, Stephen M.Silberstein, Ian T. Simmons, Liesel Pritzker Simmons, Alexander Soros, George Soros.

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Facebook’s Libra Will Become A Blockchain Lottery For The Rich

To understand how early investors in Facebook’s new Libra blockchain will make money over time, it helps to look at a lossless lottery called PoolTogether. Its similarity to Libra is not a completely one-to-one relationship, but the key insight of both is the same: Earning interest on your own money is good, but it’s better to also earn interest on other people’s money.

PoolTogether, sells digital lottery tickets for 20 DAI (the stablecoin generated by the MakerDAO protocol). PoolTogether sells as many tickets as it can, and all the DAI gets put into the ethereum-based money market protocol called Compound. There, all the ticket money collects interest over the life at the pool and at the end, one ticket earns all the interest off everyone’s ticket price.

But everyone else gets the money they paid for their tickets back, too – ergo, no losers. Except the ones paying the interests.

“What excites me is that I think it can actually move the needle on economic health for a lot of people,” PoolTogether’s creator, Leighton Cusack, told CoinDesk. People get excited about lotteries. They don’t excited about savings accounts. This is a way of nudging them in the right direction.

Libra is also designed so that a select few capture the interest earned on money tucked away by the vast many.

As CoinDesk previously reported, there are two tokens that make Libra work. Most of the attention has been on the Libra coin, the stablecoin backed by some as-yet-unnamed basket of bonds and currencies. To get that basket started, though, Facebook came up with the idea for the “Libra investment token” (LIT).

Like PoolTogether, the whole point of LIT is to earn interest off other people’s deposits.

On PoolTogether, everybody is betting that they can win the interest off of everyone else’s tickets. A crypto newbie could buy one ticket for 20 DAI and get all the interest earned off a whale who bought 1,000 tickets. On the Libra protocol, it works the same way, except the same whales always win.

Far from decentralizing the financial system, Libra will further centralize our data. Calibra, the company that will develop products and services based around Libra, says it will “use customer data to conduct research projects related to financial inclusion and economic opportunity”. In other words, as Privacy International observes, “even more intimate profiling of individuals allowing organisations to offer products and services with discriminatory pricing based on a large dossier of data”.

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Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Is A License To Print Money

Buy Facebook’s Libra and you are literally giving the social media giant a license to print money, in the form of its new cryptocurrency.

Facebook’s plan to operate its own digital currency poses risks to the international banking system that should trigger a speedy response from global policymakers, according to the organisation that represents the world’s central banks.

Although the move of big tech firms such as Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba into financial services could speed up transactions and cut costs, especially in developing world countries, it could also undermine the stability of a banking system that has only just recovered from the crash of 2008.

“Libra” will be pegged to a basket of mainstream currencies at a value of about a dollar, and rooted in the model of secure, immutable online transactions we know as blockchain. Its operations will be overseen by a new organisation based in Geneva, open to any company or corporation that has a value of at least $1bn (£790m) and will invest a minimum of $10m. There are currently 28 such participants, ranging from Uber and Spotify to Mastercard.

If you’re one of the site’s 2.6 billion users, Facebook’s operators know where you are all the time, whether you’re logged on or not. They know what you’re buying, even if you’re in a brick-and-mortar shop. They scan photos you upload for biometrics. They mine your data and sell it to advertisers, but they won’t say how much of it, only that it’s a small amount, promise.

Facebook’s not the product. We are.

There are vast markets in the developing world where Facebook and its subsidiaries have millions of users but are held back from creaming off advertising revenue by the simple matter of poverty. Libra offers new revenue opportunities, partly by inviting people to exchange national currencies for the new medium, thereby gifting Facebook and its partners a vast pool of funds. In these territories, and more affluent places, the new currency also offers Facebook the chance to accelerate what sits at the heart of everything it does: the harvesting of endless data, which can then be monetized.

Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, last week added his voice to concerns being expressed over big tech’s move into finance, warning that Libra could shift power into the wrong hands.

Hughes, who is co-chair of the Economic Security Project, an anti-poverty campaign group, said: “If even modestly successful, Libra would hand over much of the control of monetary policy from central banks to these private companies. If global regulators don’t act now, it could very soon be too late.”

At that point, surveillance capitalism would colonize the shrinking parts of our lives it has so far left relatively untouched. It would amass mountains of lucrative information about everything from our friends to when we last paid a speeding fine – and in the process, bring unlimited corporate power into areas we still consider subject to the checks and balances of democracy. The state could also have a field day: can you imagine the glee at the Department for Work and Pensions if it was able to monitor not just people’s universal credit payments but how they spent them?

But the biggest question of all is screamingly obvious, and worth asking for the thousandth time: how, in any meaningful way, can we hold Facebook – and Google – to account, and drastically limit their power?

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Cannabis Sales Could Reach $15 Billion Globally This Year

Industry insiders are forecasting that global cannabis sales could total $14.9 billion in 2019, up 36% from 2018, according to a new report released Thursday.

The surge of CBD products coupled with Canada starting legal recreational cannabis sales in 2018 helped to buoy the industry’s growth, according to the report published by the market research arm of cannabis investment firm Arcview Group and data firm BDS Analytics.

The seventh edition of the report — like publications Arcview published previously — includes a calculated gaze into the crystal ball, projecting industry sales. Arcview and BDS’ latest expectations are that cannabis sales in dispensaries, retail stores and pharmacies will hit $44.8 billion globally by 2024.

“North America will almost certainly continue producing the lion’s share of legal spending, particularly as more U.S. markets transition from medical-only access for a limited pool to full legalization with sales open to all legal adults,” Tom Adams, managing director of industry intelligence at BDS Analytics, wrote in the report.

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Bank of America Has “More To Gain Than Anybody” From Cashless Society

Bank of America (BAC) CEO Brian Moynihan embraced the digital money movement on Wednesday, saying his firm has “more to gain than anybody” from the booming trend of non-cash transactions.

“We want a cashless society,” Moynihan, who heads up the second largest U.S. bank, told attendees at Fortune’s Brainstorm Finance conference.

Attending Fortune’s Brainstorm Finance Conference, the CEO of Bank of America, Brian Moynihan, revealed his stance on the current developments in the field of finance.

According to him, the banking industry, in general, will continue to head toward digital and tech-enabled models. The main reason for this is because they are more efficient and cheaper compared to traditional methods.

If you think about the major types of technology that people talk about – voice recognition, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics -all of those apply to our industry. That’s how we reduce the size of our company, by applying technology across all procedures. – Said Moynihan.

A 2018 San Francisco Federal Reserve report found that “cash continues to be the most frequently used payment instrument, representing 30 percent of all transactions and 55 percent of transactions under $10.”

Still, the combination of cryptocurrencies, cashless payments, and electronic wallets like Google Pay (GOOGGOOGL) and Apple Pay (AAPL) are slowly eroding the need for hard currency. In particular, consumers have adopted mobile banking more widely, and use debit cards with increasing regularity.

Bank of America has spent $1 billion on building out digital banking service like these in the last six years.

All over the western world banks are shutting down cash machines and branches. They are trying to push you into using their digital payments and digital banking infrastructure. Just like Google wants everyone to access and navigate the broader internet via its privately controlled search portal, so financial institutions want everyone to access and navigate the broader economy through their systems.

In behavioral economics this is referred to as “nudging”. If a powerful institution wants to make people choose a certain thing, the best strategy is to make it difficult to choose the alternative.

A cashless society brings dangers. People without bank accounts will find themselves further marginalized, disenfranchised from the cash infrastructure that previously supported them. There are also poorly understood psychological implications about cash encouraging self-control while paying by card or a mobile phone can encourage spending. And a cashless society has major surveillance implications.

Governments around the world are even happier with the fast arriving cashless society.  Cash can be hidden, despite your bank being required to spy on you and report to the IRS any “unusual” financial activity.  Government wants every transaction you make to be taxable, trackable, hackable, blockable, and used to empower Big Brother.

Powerful parties condition the cultural and economic environment in such a way that their interests begin to be perceived as natural and inevitable by the general public. Nobody was on the streets shouting for digital payment 20 years ago, but increasingly it seems obvious and “natural” that it should take over. That belief does not come from nowhere.

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Adidas Loses “3 Stripes” Trademark Case In Europe

The Adidas three-stripe logo is famous and many fans think it’s cool, but it’s just not distinctive enough to deserve trademark protection, an EU court ruled Wednesday.

The three-stripe logo was first registered by Adidas’s founder, Adi Dassler, on a football boot on 18 August 1949, but the court said it was not sufficient to identify the products as originating from the brand.

The ruling is part of a long-running dispute between the German sportswear manufacturer and the Belgian company Shoe Branding Europe.

The fight between the two shoemakers stemmed from an earlier legal battle, though, in which Adidas successfully opposed Shoe Branding’s registration of a two-stripe trademark for its sneaker and sportswear brand Patrick. In that case, the court found that Shoe Branding’s stripes were confusingly similar to Adidas’ two-stripe trademark, and blocked the registration.

Adidas, which can appeal to the European court of justice, said it was “disappointed” with the ruling but still evaluating its implications.

“This ruling is limited to this particular execution of the three-stripe mark and does not impact on the broad scope of protection that Adidas has on its well-known three-stripe mark in various forms in Europe,” the company said in a statement.

Adidas’ most recent setback doesn’t mean it is no longer entitled to protect its intellectual property. In fact, the company has numerous other three-stripe trademarks registered in the EU. But Wednesday’s ruling may limit its scope.

Wednesday’s ruling could erode the value of the Adidas brand, currently worth $14.3 billion, according to David Haigh, chief executive of consultancy Brand Finance.

“The name is more important but the recognizable three stripes are also a major contributor to recognition,” he said.

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Facebook’s Libra Cryptocurrency Poses a Double Threat

Facebook’s new cryptocurrency. platform could provide the embattled social media giant with a new revenue stream of historic proportions as it contends with a possible federal antitrust probe and continued scrutiny over its data privacy practices.

Regulators will be watching closely when Facebook Inc. unveils its cryptocurrency project this week. Their vigilance is warranted.

Weekend media leaks suggest that Facebook’s “Libra” project will be a continuation of its past efforts to expand its payments business and keep customers within the walled garden of its social media apps by creating their very own money.

Facebook’s cryptocurrency could thrive in emerging markets, providing a more stable alternative for transferring money in areas with volatile currencies and unstable governments, according to RBC Capital Markets. The firm expects “Libra” to facilitate person-to-person payments, traditional e-commerce and spending on apps or gaming services on Facebook-owned properties.

“We believe this may prove to be one of the most important initiatives in the history of the company to unlock new engagement and revenue streams,” RBC Capital Markets analysts said in a note to investors.

It’s crucial that Libra doesn’t become a protective glue that binds Zuckerberg’s social networks even more closely together at a time when many regulators want to break them up. Libra will be presented as an open-source partnership whose benefits are available to all, but to what extent will it really be held at arm’s length from the Zuckerberg empire? Indeed, if the financial and business benefits of using Libra accrue mainly to Facebook, it will merely enshrine its market dominance.

Facebook has already partnered with more than a dozen companies, including Visa and PayPal, that have invested in the cryptocurrency and will help to oversee its use, The Wall Street Journal reported. The cryptocurrency will reportedly be tied to several traditional fiat currencies in a bid to protect “Libra” from price volatility that has hurt other leading digital currencies such as bitcoin.

With scrutiny of Facebook’s practices at an all-time high, the cryptocurrency could reshape the company’s business. Barclays analyst Ross Sandler predicted in March that the digital currency could produce as much as $19 billion in new revenue by 2021.

While no one wants to choke innovation unnecessarily, Facebook hasn’t exactly done much to earn everybody’s trust in recent years. Any chance to put the necessary controls in at the beginning, rather than firefighting down the road, should be grabbed by the regulators.

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Colorado Has Made Over $1 Billion From Legal Marijuana Taxes

It’s a pretty extraordinary milestone, and an indicator of just how financially strong the legal marijuana market has become. The Colorado Department of Revenue says sales since legalization have topped $6.5 billion, generating $1.02 billion from taxes, licenses and fees. The state has more than 2,900 licensed marijuana businesses and more than 41,000 licensed workers in the industry.

“This industry is helping grow our economy by creating jobs and generating valuable revenue that is going towards preventing youth consumption, protecting public health and safety and investing in public school construction,” Governor Jared Polis said in a statement.

The Denver Post reports marijuana revenue funds a variety of public health programs, including mental health services, youth literacy initiatives and anti-bullying programs in schools. The tax revenue goes to state and local governments.

Colorado isn’t the only place cashing in on the hunger for legal weed. In 2018, marijuana business owners nationwide were projected to own a total of $2.8 billion in taxes to the federal government. As many as 300,000 people are predicted to be a part of the marijuana industry by 2020, and pot-related jobs from bud trimming to industry consulting can pay some pretty healthy green.

For Sal Pace, a former state representative and county commissioner in southern Colorado, as well as a longtime advocate of cannabis legalization in the state, these new financial numbers are vindicating.

“Think about it. That’s a billion dollars that was taken out of the pockets of the black market cartels and put towards communities,” Pace told Leafly. “This is pretty amazing; it surpassed all of our expectations.”