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Cannabis patent application rejection not enough: activists

Cannabis patent application rejection not enough: activists

MONDAY, November 19, 2018
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Govt warned of hidden applications in the system which could undermine traditional Thai medicine

THE REJECTION of one cannabis patent is not enough, activists said yesterday after the Commerce Ministry agreed to turn down one of 12 applications for registration of patents.
A review concluded that one of the patent applications violated the Thai Intellectual Property Law and will be rejected within this week, Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said yesterday.
He acknowledged concerns over potential legal issues related to cannabinoid drug patents following Thailand’s effort to legalise medical cannabis as Thai researchers develop new cannabinoid drugs.
Sontirat said that the Intellectual Property Department was aware of the public’s concern about the patent issue but the problem was complicated, as the Intellectual Property Law is very complex. 
The applications have already been through many steps in the process and so the department has to be careful in finding a way out of this problem, said Sontirat.
He said after considering the controversial cannabis patent applications starting last week, the Intellectual Property Department had decided to reject one patent application. That application was an attempt to register the patent of a natural cannabis extract, which is against Article 9 of the Intellectual Property Act.
“Of the 11 cannabis patent applications that the public sector has found, only one application was found to violate the Thai Intellectual Property Law,” said Sontirat. “I have already asked the Intellectual Property Department director-general to carefully follow instructions as per Article 30 and reject this application. This procedure can be done within this week.” 
FTA Watch vice president Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul said the action was insufficient. Rejecting a single application means nothing, as there are still at least 11 cannabinoid drug patent applications still in the Intellectual Property Department’s system, she said.
“Of the total 12 patent applications that we have found, six of them are currently in the process of advertising, so we have asked the Intellectual Property Department to examine these applications. And if they are ineligible to register the patent, the department must drop these applications immediately,” Kannikar said.
“The new patent applications must show that they have a new innovation [involved], and they do not conflict with Article 9 of the Intellectual Property Act. If the department considers any of these applications eligible for patent registration, it also has to inform the public right away.”
The activist urged the department to reveal all cannabis-related patent applications held in its system. She claimed there were many more unknown cannabis patent applications that have not yet been discovered in the department’s system.
Addressing the issue of the number of cannabis patent applications, Sontirat said that as of now two medicinal applications had already been abandoned and so none existed in the system. 
The remaining eight patent applications are not for cannabis extracts, but instead are medicines that include cannabis extracts as one of their ingredients and so can legally proceed through the patent registration system.
Thai researchers have voiced concerns that the issue could disrupt the current process to legalise medical cannabis as well as affect research and development efforts of Thai researchers for cannabinoid medication. Responding to the issue, Sontirat said the intellectual property law aims to encourage innovation and new inventions. Thai researchers will have no problem in developing new drugs from cannabis and can also register patents on their drug formulas to protect their innovations.
BioThai Foundation remains concerned about the eight cannabis patent applications still in the system. Despite the Commerce Minister’s comments that these applications do not violate Article 9 of the Intellectual Property Law, the foundation said they may violate Article 5, which requires the new patent application to specify the new innovation related to the registered invention, according to the foundation.
BioThai Foundation explained that the medical formula in the applications might replicate Thai traditional medical wisdom, which has long used cannabis to treat many sicknesses, and hence will not be a new invention, the foundation argued.