Apple seeks to patent ‘vaporizer’: Is it for weed?

First, let’s make this clear: Apple may want to make a vaporizer for industrial purposes.

But let’s say this, too: With marijuana legalized for recreational and/or medical use in 28 states and counting, there’s a giant market opportunity for tech companies to produce devices related to pot consumption.

And we know that Apple likes money — so much, in fact, that it parks hundreds of billions of dollars in cash outside the country so it can go on holiday to roll around in it while keeping Uncle Sam’s filthy, tax-grabbing mitts off it.

That Apple and weed could make for a lucrative match is unquestionable — the brand has world-class pull, and the company makes some awfully sleek devices. Whether Apple will go that route remains unknown outside the company.

However, a patent application made public Jan. 26 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicates the Cupertino firm is looking into a device that could perhaps be used for the consumption of pot and THC-bearing extracts.

Apple applied in July to patent “an apparatus for vaporization or sublimation of a substance.”

But what substance?

SiliconBeat asked Apple, “Hey, man, do you put weed in this vaporizer thing?” or words to that effect. So far, crickets. But we’re hopeful: Maybe Apple noted our request and really meant to answer, but then forgot. Or got sidetracked looking for its keys. Or just couldn’t drag itself away from the dessert station in the company cafeteria.

The timing of the patent bid is interesting: It came less than a month after California’s recreational-pot legalization initiative qualified for the ballot, where it ultimately passed.

It appears the device, built around a chamber with a heating element at the bottom, could be used for vaporizing buds or the marijuana extracts that have become popular. “The substance may be a solid precursor that is to be sublimated within a chamber, or it may be a liquid chemical that is to be vaporized in the chamber,” the application said.

For those who would postulate that Apple is too square to jump on the weed wagon, it should be pointed out that the company had once banned a pot-related app from its app store, but then mellowed out and let it go ahead.

Of course, vaporizers are used for many industrial applications, and may also end up as part of “smell-o-vision” virtual-reality systems, so there’s no certainty that Apple plans to take on the iconic Volcano in the stoner and medicinal-marijuana markets.

And Troy Dayton, CEO of cannabis-industry investment network The Arcview Group said Apple’s patent application probably related to computer technology rather than pot consumption. Major tech companies such as Apple and Google are unlikely to enter the cannabis industry while marijuana is still illegal under federal law, Dayton said.

But tech giants’ reluctance to risk bad optics by participating in an industry based on a product deemed illegal by the feds creates opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors, he said.

Dayton believes once Big Tech does get into the game, assuming federal law changes, major firms will be buying startups that flourished under state-level legalization.


Photo: Marijuana buds. (Ed Andrieski/AP)


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