Dept to drop another pot patent claim, says Sontirat

Dept to drop another pot patent claim, says Sontirat

The Commerce Minister has ordered his Intellectual Property Department to reject three foreign patents on marijuana extracts. (Main photo 'Medical Jane')
The Commerce Minister has ordered his Intellectual Property Department to reject three foreign patents on marijuana extracts. (Main photo 'Medical Jane')

Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong ordered the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) to reject a patent request for cannabis extracts, after facing pressure from an advocacy group.

It was one of the 11 patent requests earlier lodged with the DIP, he said.

Of the 11 requests, two have already been withdrawn. Deliberation of the other eight were still ongoing as the requests do not concern cannabis extracts directly, but substances that have the extracts as a component.

"All requests have been deliberated by the DIP since last week. It is important to make sure the approval of patents complies with the Patent Act, which is quite complicated and involves a long process," Mr Sontirat told media Monday.

Under Section 9(1), extracts of a plant cannot be patented, he said, before adding that under Section 30, the DIP's director-general is legally bound to withdraw such requests and officials must notify both the petitioner and those who petitioned against it. Mr Sontirat insisted that local researchers are still able to use cannabis extracts to produce medicines or precursors that can be used to make medicines.

They can also develop new synthetic products from the extract, which could then be patented, he said.

Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul, an activist from FTA Watch, an advocacy group, told the Bangkok Post that the other eight requests must be rejected as they might still violate Section 9(4) of the Patent Act, which stipulates that the treatment method related to plant extracts must not be patented.

"The deliberation might affect national interests because almost one hundred traditional Thai medicines are cannabis-based concoctions," she said. "It may also prevent local research if the component being researched overlaps with the components that these companies are trying to patent."

After the DIP accepts a patent registration request, submitters will be protected for five years. Even if the patent is not granted, other researchers will not be allowed to conduct studies on the same concoctions and method of treatment.

Meanwhile, Biodiversity Sustainable Agriculture Food Sovereignty Action Thailand (Biothai), an advocacy group, has also urged the DIP to reject all 11 patent requests relating to cannabis extracts.

"The DIP must repeal all requests within the week," said Biothai director Withoon Lianchamroon.

"If our demand is not met, civic networks will file a lawsuit against the department."

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