Is AYR Wellness Making the Right Choice Going with Levia?

News surfaced mid-August 2021 that AYR Wellness would acquire Cultivauna, maker of the cannabis-infused spirit Levia. Levia is Massachusetts’ first cannabis beverage brand and is sold only in Massachusetts, as of August 2021. AYR Wellness, a vertically integrated cannabis multi-state operator, seeks to enter the rapidly growing infused beverage market with this acquisition, but is it AYR’s best choice? 

Currently, AYR Wellness owns dispensaries in Massachusetts which provide its products that include flower, concentrates, tinctures, topicals, edibles, pre-rolls, and vapes. Levia grew to become the best selling THC drink in Massachusetts just 6 months after release through its three drink products. The catch? Neither Levia nor Cultivauna own IP protection for their infused beverages. The infused beverage space is filling quickly with over 145 patent assets in total and over 40 assignees. 

In the lead by a wide margin is Poviva Tea, which was acquired in 2017 by Lexaria Biosciences. Poviva Tea owns 22 patent assets related to infused coffees and teas and was acquired specifically for its IP portfolio, according to Lexaria. Poviva’s top competitor Betterlife Pharma, formerly Pivot Pharmaceuticals, owns 9 patent assets for hot drink cannabis powder additives. These two companies only cover the tip of the iceberg of the infused beverages patent space. Could Levia see some infringement lawsuits soon? 

While no patents have been challenged in the infused beverages space just yet, we can’t put aside CannTrust’s recent settlement with Keurig. CannTrust’s subsidiary Club Coffee sued Keurig in 2014 claiming Keurig had monopolized the single-serve beverage market and settled for a $31 million class action in 2020. CannTrust’s patents are for single-serve beverage pods that contain cannabis and are now assigned to Single Dose Solutions to keep CannTrust in compliance with the Toronto Stock Exchange’s requirements for listing shares. Depending on how exactly Levia is formulating its seltzer, it may be hearing from a patent holding competitor soon since Levia currently does not have patent protection. 

There are issued patents for cannabinoid infused water similar to Levia’s, one of which is assigned to the top extractions assignee Natural Extraction Systems. The patent entitled, “Methods of administering anionic cannabinoid molecules dissolved in water” discusses methods of consuming cannabinoids infused in water and mentions using carbonated water. It appears there could be some toe-stepping there but only time will tell. 

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