Brooklyn Law Review


Quentin Barbosa


A resurgence in federally approved psychedelic research has spawned the Psychedelic Renaissance, and with each study it becomes increasingly clear that psychedelics have the potential to revolutionize mental health treatment. However, if Congress fails to reform the industry’s patent procedures, threats to innovation in the budding field of psychedelic medicine will manifest in their ugliest form. Psychedelics are a class of hallucinogenic drugs that primarily trigger substantially altered states of consciousness, including psychological, visual, and auditory changes. Medical research on psychedelics has produced staggering results that indicate psychedelics have the potential to be significantly more effective in treating mental illnesses for a broader range of people, taking less time to work with fewer undesirable side effects than traditional antidepressants. Numerous US-based start-ups, research labs, and other companies have started conducting their own research to capitalize on the emerging psychedelic medicine industry. These companies are patenting the fruits of their research to protect their investments in drug research and development. However, some of these patents should not have been issued in the first place because they are not novel or are obvious to those skilled in the field. Additionally, these patents can monopolize naturally occurring products or long existing synthetic variants which should remain affordable and widely available. Another issue is that patents can exploit Indigenous knowledge without compensation. Furthermore, the patent system can be abused such that only a few companies gatekeep psychedelic medicine, discouraging competitors, impeding research, restraining innovation, and limiting access to psychedelic therapy. Patents are intended to incentivize new innovations, not reward obvious or existing solutions. Thus, it is imperative to implement patent reforms while the psychedelics industry is in its nascent stage to prevent abuse of the patent system, promote innovation, increase access, and facilitate equity. This article explores potential reform solutions in psychedelic patents and presents a multipronged approach to provide adequate outcomes to all stakeholders. Because psychedelic patents, controversial as they may be, have a role in an essential medical revolution and the decriminalization movement, reforms to the patent process are necessary to stoke innovation while also crediting and compensating Indigenous communities.