Protecting IP: What Should Medical Marijuana Suppliers Do?

You have invested considerable man-hours and capital in your grow, extraction/infusion, and dispensing facilities. They are protected by a sophisticated security system and insured. Your employees, vendors, subcontractors, and partners have all been screened—including local and state background checks. In this competitive business, there is one more asset that needs protection–your Intellectual Property (IP).

  • Your recipes are one of your greatest IP assets. As an example, recipes include the selected species of your crop, the in-house cloning methods, irrigation water chemistry, fertilizer selection and application, harvest timing, drying duration, extracting techniques, and final product infusion procedures. In addition to the above, lighting is also a key recipe component. Think about all of the specific and deliberate choices that you have made. You have installed a selection of artificial light sources—including high-pressure sodium, metal halide, florescent, CFL, induction fluorescence, LED, plasma, and ceramic. You have determined color spectrum, micromole energy density, and on-off cycles throughout the facility to optimize the grow sequence.
  • Your operation is another vulnerable asset. All of your drawings, specifications, documents, and procedures require protection. This includes architectural floor plans, process flow diagrams, and HVAC strategy—including pressurization scheme, isolated operations, filtration technology, odor abatement, set points, control system sequence, monitoring, recording, alarms, response, back-up power and energy strategy. This also extends to cleaning and sanitization procedures, employee gowning products and techniques, and vendor/supplier services. Look at Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), for example. Say you have 80 SOPs to manage operations. Estimate that it took approximately 40 hours to develop, write, review, discuss, edit, and approve each. That is an investment of 3,200 man-hours—a sizeable commitment in time and effort that should be safeguarded.
  • Other IP assets include your regulatory position, marketing and sales strategy, HR policies, and security. Remember, security is not just for intrusion detection and theft from external sources. It should also address losses from employee shrinkage and diversion.

Loss is possible through many avenues: hacking, lax computer access controls, physical theft of a copy, photography, video, recorded/overheard conversations, lost documents, disgruntled employees/vendors, unwarranted vendor access, and covert actions. Understand the value of your IP and develop a ranked risk listing and associated prevention plans. IP is your biggest asset. As such, it requires relentless attention and protection.

With medical marijuana now legal in 23 states, the market flourishes despite significant challenges. Learn more in The Regulated Medical Marijuana Business: An Educational Seminar from Concept to Product Sale—a course that I teach at the Center for Professional Innovation and Education (CfPIE). This new training program from CfPIE helps growers, owners, designers, engineers, investors, regulators, and lenders navigate regulations, remain profitable, and be safe in this emerging market.

My name is Richard F. Newmiller. I have over 20 years of Pharmaceutical Industry experience. As a course instructor at the Center for Professional Innovation and Education (CfPIE) and a Management Consultant supplying Engineering and project management services, I have a unique background that includes corporate, contractor, designer and owner perspectives.

Other courses I teach at CfPIE include: Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) in a Regulated Environment and Water Purification Systems for Regulated Industries - Design, Chemistry and Validation.

Tags: FDA , Intellectual Property , Medical Marijuana