Last week, a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas by Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth accusing UK-based GW Pharma of unauthorized usage of intellectual property (IP) owned by Canopy.
The IP in question relates to a CO2 CBD extraction method; Canopy alleges GW is using this method to produce their flagship Epidiolex medication, which was the first cannabis-based medicine to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Canopy Growth claims it obtained the IP via its 2019 acquisition of C3 Cannabinoid Compound Co., a German cannabis company. Canopy reportedly received the U.S. patent (which gives them exclusive rights to the process for a year and a half) on the same day the lawsuit was filed but claims GW has been monitoring the IP for over a decade. Canopy stressed that while they do not wish to reduce patient access to Epidiolex, they do want GW to end “the unauthorized use of Canopy’s intellectual property.”
The extraction method in question is actually widely used in the cannabis industry, and the outcome of the federal lawsuit could have a ripple effect throughout the supply chain.
“It really could be a major threat to the extraction industry. Once they know about [the patent], companies might be considered to be willfully infringing the patent, which can potentially triple damages if they are sued,” Larry Sandell, a patent attorney and litigator with Mei & Mark LLP, said in an interview with the website Marijuana Moment. “Although there are steps that can be taken to reduce infringement liability risks, CO2 extractors may essentially have this anvil hanging over their head as the business continues on—at least until the patent expires or someone succeeds in knocking it out.”
Officials from GW Pharma declined to address the lawsuit in the media, stating they have a policy to not comment on pending litigation, but did assert their confidence in their position with regards to the complaint.