How to Create & Patent Your Own Cannabis Strain (Strainly.io Founder)
Alan is the founder of Strainly, a Montreal-based startup whose mission is to provide a web based app allowing peer-to-peer cannabis cultivars to exchange and improve access to propagation material.
Strainly allows legal cannabis growers and breeders (medical or adult use) to trade seeds, clones, tissue cultures or pollen and have easier access to a variety of cannabis strains to grow and breed.
Whether looking for Indicas, Sativas, Hybrids or even Ruderalis, users can browse, filter and find their cultivars while benefiting from a rating/reviews mechanism, fostering trust among the community.
Check out Alan Strainly as he breaks down how cultivators can protect their cannabis creations/strains from being patented by large corporations.
Avoid the trap and learn how to protect your strains through open source.
Gary George: 00:25:47 There’s alot of variables and that is the reason why cannabis education never stops and is something that is ongoing for all of us. It’s going to continue to advance and we have to continue to study to be on the cutting edge of what’s going on, what’s new, what’s great and what’s happening. So let’s talk about the preservation of genetics. I know that that’s a big thing and reason why you created this platform is to help the farmers, the growers, breeders, to maintain genetics. Has there been any interesting, unexpected discoveries you didn’t think would happen after people started using the platform?
Alan Strainly: 00:26:59 So, yeah. So, as you said the initial goal was creating a strategy to connect people. And because I saw that it was where we could really improve things and there are many other ways of improving, preservation efforts and making preservation efforts easier and improving access to the genetics but it’s, it’s a collective effort. So, you know, I’m not going to pretend that Strainly.io and myself can save biodiversity. It’s really a collective effort and everybody has to sort of get involved if it’s the goal of the majority of people in the industry. But creating a platform to connect people in a safe way was sort of a starting point and where it get’s interesting is where people actually, I thought it would be initially more breeders and nurseries getting involved, but actually you realize that a lot of cultivators have aspirations of breeding their own genetics and not necessarily to make a living out of them, but just to have something different that’s adapted to their environment.
Alan Strainly: 00:28:08 And so they’ve started using Strainly just to get access to some genetics that would help them creating something that’s better adapted to the environment. And so that’s where it’s really interesting, I think you where a, the conversation went to is the legal aspect where some people started quickly to ask questions about, okay, you know, it’s fine, you provide a platform to connect people, et Cetera but you should do more. You know, it’s not enough. And I was like, okay, but you know, I thought there would be other entities like nonprofits, et Cetera, or getting involved to preserving genetics. And there are actually nonprofits, , being involved and being sensitive to this topic. And so that’s why it’s important to have this collaboration effort between us.
Alan Strainly: 00:29:01 So we started reaching out to growers, alliances, associations, nonprofits, supporting cannabis cultivators in order to raise awareness about the necessity of making an open source license available to their members, to the growers, to the breeders, so that if they want, they can issue their genetics under an open source license so that no one can use their genetics to put patterns on them down the road. And it’s really their decision in the end. Some people, you know, they would consider, you know, applying for patents and it’s very costly. We could discuss that, but some others may say I want to keep it like, you know, in the collaborative spirit like we’ve always done during prohibition. And so I want to formalize that through an open source license. And it’s really nothing new. We’re not really reinventing the wheel. How open source is something that exists in software development and for breeding tomatoes, corn and everything. It’s just not the norm but it does exist. So we can do it for cannabis as well.
Gary George: 00:30:12 Wow That’s eye opening right there. I mean, open source for the cannabis industry and all the software people we understand that term very well from a perspective of open source software allows everybody to contribute, allows everybody to add and it grows a better platform. That’s what wordpress is a lot of other platforms where people that don’t understand open source, but now you can apply those same principles to the cannabis industry. And this is the first time I heard it Alan when you presented this. So I want you to talk a little bit more about what that exactly means.
Alan Strainly: 00:30:43 So, you know, just to give it a bit of context, , is, you know, basically, you know, during prohibition by definition, there was no way you could go out and try to get a patent a cannabis varietal that you created. There was just no way because it was admitting to commit a crime. But now that it’s being legalized some people, some corporations mainly are going and you know, it’s no secret in Canada we have a lot of large, well-funded corporations in the cannabis space. And they made no secret that they are going to apply for patents on some varietals, , that the breed or sometimes, you know, I’m not even sure they really breed those varietals. So that would be what we call overreaching patents. And so they are in the process of applying for patents.
Alan Strainly: 00:31:35 And this is something, you know, we’ve seen, , over like the past five decades. Like the large biotech companies like, you know, everybody mentioned the name Monsanto, although it doesn’t exist anymore, Bayer acquired the company and the killed the name because it has such a bad reputation. But basically, Bayer, like Syngenta out of Switzerland, Dupont in North America, you know, the whole biotech companies that created some new types like varietals of corn, of tomatoes, of cucumbers of grain generally speaking. And the put patterns on them. And then they sell them to the farmers and the farmers, you know, they have to buy those seeds every year. And even if they produced some seeds out of their harvest, they can’t sow the seeds for free. They have to pay royalties.
Alan Strainly: 00:32:25 And most of the time those seeds, they would be sterile anyway. But if, if they can, if they are fertile, they would have to pay royalties back to the seed makers because those seeds are patented. And so they are, there is a solid licensing contract that comes it. And so in cannabis, you know, many people are are against that because we have a very large biodiversity of cannabis, varietals or strains, dozens of them more or less stable to be honest. But there is various very large biodiversity. We have many, many phenotypes available and chemotype profiles. So you know, what we observed in conventional agriculture and horticulture with patenting over the past decades is biodiversity reduced. You go to South America and you see like thousands of type of corn. Then you go to North America and on the shelves, when you and I go shopping and buy corn, there are four types of corn and they are all patented.
Alan Strainly: 00:33:26 And they are not necessarily the most nutritive varieties of corn. They are not necessarily the best for your health. They are usually the ones that produce the biggest harvest and that are logistically easier to move around without being damaged. And that’s the, that’s the prime goal. So with cannabis, you know, my belief is that they’re will be the Molson, Heineken, Corona of cannabis, large producers do it as products. And aside from that, you will have hopefully having various, a big potential for that. And you asked me like some small vineyards or microbreweries of cannabis, what we call craft cannabis producers. And it already exists in Oregon, in northern California, in BC, in Canada and other places. But for those smaller scale, you know, people to compete in the market, they would have to have access to some different genetics to differentiate.
Alan Strainly: 00:34:20 In the market with a different product, you know, maybe higher quality with higher margins and Higher Price Tag, But that’s also the desired by the, by the clients. And if you know, the genetic landscape is reduced, patents are going to be very hard for them to differentiate in the market. And so they are going to be pushed out maybe in some years out of the market by the big players. And so the goal is really to have sort of a safe avenue for these people who can’t afford to apply for patents for their genetics. It’s very costly to get and to defend. So the safe avenue in my opinion, and I’m open to discussions and challenges, but it’s my opinion that the safe haven for the smaller players is open source where you have these genetics available that do not require patents to be used.
Gary George: 00:35:22 That is really, really eye opening in terms of the space. And that was some great analogies that you gave in terms of the big players coming into this space and taking over and the differences of how the small guys are going to be able to survive. Once they start sucking down and putting the money behind these things and putting patents on these different breeds and stuff like that, it makes it very difficult for the small guy to survive. So like you said, open source is a method that can be utilized to help a lot of the small guys, the craft cannabis creators have a bit of a safe haven. So how do you go about defining something as open source? How do the smaller craft guys say, you know what, this particular variety, this breed, we’re going to make this open source so that it can’t be patented and it can’t push us out of it. Is there a way to do that?
Alan Strainly: 00:36:11 So at the moment, there is no formal way to do it because to be honest, we drafted an open source license, we work with a German nonprofit that already created an open source breeding license for tomatoes, corn, whatever vegetable. And they said, you’re really welcome to use our model to replicate that in the cannabis world. But in order for this open source license to be truly effective what we need to do is localize it in Canada, in the different states, in the US to have sort of a legal weight in those locations. Otherwise, you know, it would require US breeders and Canada breeders to use a German license and then defend it in German courts. It’s not very practical.
Alan Strainly: 00:36:55 Not everybody speaks German so we need to localize. So what we did was take the license that the guys were using in Germany, tweaked it and modified it a little bit to make it more compatible with the help of an IP lawyer here in Canada, more compatible with Canada law and US law. And then what we did is we sent it out to all of the growers, alliances and associations in British Columbia, in Oregon, in Washington, in northern California. And everywhere we could find such alliances and associations because I believe that it should be these guys, you know, nonprofits representing their members. We should be issuing these license localized in California, within Oregon, within BC for the benefit of their members.
Alan Strainly: 00:37:54 And I think it’s a more democratic way of dealing with this issue. The other option would have been forced to issue the license and then tell Australian users for example they can use the license but at the moment we really wanted to explore the nonprofit direction with a more democratic approach and see if there was an appetite to do it. I think we need to be quick, you know, I don’t mean to rush anyone, but I think we need to be quick because when that is done and those localized licenses are available, it means that a grower breeder would be able to say here are my new seeds that I created this season and I want to issue them under the open source license.
Alan Strainly: 00:38:42 And what you need to do is just specify when you make them available whether it’s on Strainly.io or your website or wherever you want. You simply say these seeds are issued under open source license with the reference of the license and you put a sticker on the pack, putting the license and the URL address pointing to the full license online. That’s how you formalize that these seeds have been issued on the open source license. Most of the the breeders in the cannabis world have been issuing, their seeds under NO license, not patented, no license, nothing. So it means that after a year they are in the public domain and anybody can use the seeds including corporations. Technically they shouldn’t be able to do it, but they did that with corn, where they breed from those seeds in the public domain and then try to patent their new creation. But , you know, eventually, usually the result of this practice when there is no open source safe haven, there’s a reduction in biodiversity that’s available to the growers.
Gary George: 00:40:54 So we got to get smart in the industry and not just say, hey man, it’s just for goodwill, when these guys are gonna come and swipe your creations and put a patent on it. We really have to start using the tools available. So all the growers out there reach out to Allan on Strainly.io so you can start working on making some of the things that you’re creating open source and not allow these corporations and big corporate dollars to come in swipe your stuff and then restrict you from growing your own variety.
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For those interested in using Open Source to protect their seeds and strains from being patented by large corporations reach out to Alan at www.Strainly.io