In this opinion piece, Psychedelic Investor James Hallifax leans heavy on sarcasm to point out why it's problematic that a patent has been granted for an "invention" that is currently illegal, but has long been in existence.
Where the worlds of psychedelics and capitalism collide, few topics have been more heavily debated than that of patents.
The most hotly argued story, of course, has been Compass Pathways’ patent behavior, which some have dubbed “patent trolling.” On top of uncertainty of whether their “proprietary” psilocybin is really unique at all, the company backed by Peter Thiel has also made claims for practices used in basically every therapy session. For example, as Shayla Love from Vice points out, one Compass patent includes clauses such as having a room “with a substantially non-clinical appearance,” with “soft furniture,” that is “decorated using muted colors,” “comprises a high-resolution sound system,” and has “a bed or a couch.”
Yea, that sounds totally fair and not at all like patent over-reach trying to own the concept of a relaxing, calm setting for psychedelic therapy.
But to think that this is a problem limited to one company would be naive. In fact, we are in something of a psychedelic patent gold rush right now, with companies sprinting to patent substances and technologies that many argue have been in the public domain for decades. Sticking with the gold rush metaphor, these bad patents could be considered fools gold, only the fools are the public who will suffer.
And now, it appears, even individuals can get in on the mad dash and start mining.
As reported by Psilocybin Alpha’s editor-at-large, Graham Pechenik, a patent has been granted for the…ahem…“invention” of a DMT Vape Pen. The patent also covers a vape pen for 5-MeO-DMT, and 2C-B. And rather than a company being granted this right, it goes to a sole “inventor.” And it just so happens that the day job of this “inventor” is a patent lawyer.
Now, in order to be granted a patent, there has to be no prior art, or in plain-speak, there can't be examples of what is being patented in the public domain before the patent application was made.
And to be fair, it’s not like after a quick Google search you can find dozens of people selling DMT vape pens, albeit illegally.
Now, while it is easy to laugh at the ridiculousness of this patent, bad patents have serious implications for the entire psychedelics industry.
Psychedelic Spotlight has previously reported on a paper titled Patents on Psychedelics: The Next Legal Battlefront of Drug Development, in which authors argue, “Psychedelics may represent a paradigm shift for mental healthcare and the most promising solution to the mental health crisis… However, if a small number of companies secure wide swaths of intellectual property early on, then the beneficial impact of that shift may be blunted.”
For example, this patent could raise the costs for research and treatment. If it is determined that a vape pen is the best way to deliver DMT (which I am not saying it will be; intravenous administration seems to be the preferred method), then every company using DMT to treat depression or other mental health ailments will have to pay this “inventor” to use his genius “invention.” This may discourage companies from even doing research on using a vape pen in the first place and will raise the costs to consumers and patients.
Ultimately, however, the most severe consequence of this patent is likely the precedent that it sets. It sends the message to the world that anything that exists in the psychedelics world, but is currently illegal, can be patented.
I can guarantee that there are dozens of companies and individuals looking at the success of this patent and scanning every technology and practice that exists in the psychedelics world, looking for the next patent.
How about mixing LSD and MDMA — also known as “candy-flipping”? Let’s patent that! Or, how about soaking LSD liquid into small pieces of paper that people can let dissolve on their tongue? I call them, “tabs.” BOOM! Patent.
Luckily, this patent still can be challenged, though the process would be expensive, and there is no guarantee that anyone would spend the hundreds of thousands required to bring this to court.
If you believe in keeping the psychedelic space free from patent over-reach, make sure you share this article to spread the message.
Disclaimer: Psychedelic Spotlight and its parent company, Global Trac Solutions, Inc. does not in any way encourage or condone the use, purchase, sale or transfer of any illegal substances, nor do we encourage or condone partaking in any unlawful activities. We support a harm reduction approach for the purpose of education and promoting individual and public safety. If you are choosing to use psychedelic substances, please do so responsibly.