Marijuana is currently legal for medical use in the majority of states in America. The list of states legalizing marijuana for recreational use is also growing, as 8 states and the District of Columbia have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana. As the marijuana industry becomes legitimized many legal questions are arising, and the industry’s pioneers are continuing to meet with challenges arising from the confusing status marijuana has as a federally illegal drug that is increasingly legal on the state level. While the landscape might be confusing, one thing is abundantly clear- legal marijuana is having a major impact on the economy. In Colorado, legal marijuana had an economic impact in 2015 of $2.39 billion. With the high economic stakes, manufacturers and retailers are becoming protective of their brands. But in a country where marijuana is straddling between legal and illegal, the question of trademarks is one that has certain complications. Still there are some things to keep in mind when naming marijuana related products.
Do not copy other names that are trademarked
Makers of strains of cannabis should refrain from using other companies’ trademarks. The claim filed by the Cincinnati company that makes Gorilla Glue against marijuana growers who have named a highly successful strain of cannabis “Gorilla Glue” illustrates this point. While cannabis growers have long given cheeky names to the various strains they have created, going mainstream will expose possible trademark infringements to litigation.
Protecting your own trademark is going to present challenges
Trademarks must be federal approved. This presents a unique challenge for those involved in the marijuana industry, as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. It is not possible to trademark something that is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.
For marijuana sellers and growers operating in line with the laws of their states, this is a frustrating situation. Once they do come up with a catchy and original name with marketing appeal, and build their brand, they do not want their name and business goodwill pirated by other manufacturers. As stated, this is a big money making industry, and naturally, these businesses want to protect their intellectual property.
For now, there are certain ways to work around the restrictions. One approach is to trademark other related items that are legal. Some companies have trademarked their brand on vaporizers, lozenges designed for smokers, and even apparel. The thought is that by trademarking their name and logo on these related products, they will discourage others from using their logo and name, and have a strong argument for obtaining the trademark if the laws change in such a way that it becomes possible to acquire the trademark for all of their products.
In these cases, the more closely related the products are the better, because products that seem like a logical outgrowth of the already trademarked products will likely be protected, while other unrelated products might not be.
It is also important to remember that the products that are trademarked must be actually sold and continued to be a part of the business in order to maintain them. If they do not continue to use them, they might lose the right to them once they have the opportunity to use the trademark as they truly want to.
If you have questions related to trademarking cannabis related products and businesses, contact an experienced attorney to discuss your rights and options. Contact 1-844-WEED-LAW Today!