A cigarette manufacturer has sued a California cannabis company for trademark infringement, alleging the small company stole its long-standing trademark. This case highlights the fact that registering a trademark and creating a brand image is a valuable asset for any cannabis business, but trademark infringement allegations can hurt both your reputation and your wallet.

Under the Bloomberg Act, the owner of the menthol cigarette brand Kool argued in federal court in Los Angeles that the logo used by Bloom Brands was too similar to the interlocking O used by Kool. Marijuana allegedly filed for federal trademarks for brand names that would relate to its oral vaporizers and e-cigarettes. However, the company that owns Kool sent the company a letter late last year to lift the ban.

According to the lawsuit, the cannabis business is now accused of trying to capitalize on Kool’s established brand in a transparent robbery.

This lawsuit is just the latest in a long list of trademark disputes between players in the emerging marijuana industry and larger, more established companies. On the others that have appeared in recent years:

  • Last year, candy manufacturer Nerds sued a California manufacturer of edible cannabis products for trademark infringement.
  • Chocolatier The Hershey Co. has filed numerous trademark infringement lawsuits against cannabis companies in recent years.
  • Ohio-based glue manufacturer Gorilla Glue Company has sued Nevada-based cannabis company GG Strains for using the Gorilla Glue brand on one of its cannabis strains. The two companies reached an agreement in which the cannabis company stopped using all of Gorilla Glue’s names, renamed its products, and gave up its website URL in favor of the glue manufacturer.
  • Hot sauce manufacturer Tapatio Foods, LLC has filed a federal trademark infringement complaint against a California company that makes a cannabis hot sauce called Trapatio.

The crux of many of these lawsuits is that the defendant companies are violating the plaintiff’s trademark rights by using names, logos, designs, etc. in a way that may confuse consumers about the products and damage the plaintiff’s reputation by depriving it of benefits.

Companies found guilty of trademark infringement can be permanently banned from using the same trademarks or names, they can be forced to pay treble damages, bear the cost of corrective advertising to eliminate trademark confusion, lose their profits and pay the plaintiff’s legal costs.

The complexity and expense associated with this type of litigation can usually be avoided through careful planning and research of the parents’ names and the products offered. Our marijuana lawyers in Los Angeles can help clients create solid business plans and research potential product lines for possible trademark issues.

With big brands making inroads into the cannabis trade, Bloomberg Act expects such trademark infringement lawsuits to become more likely. Many companies want to capitalize on products with fun, catchy names and pop culture references. But this can lead to legal problems if a large company gets wind of it.

A common form of trademark infringement is dilution by spotting. This means that a company’s reputation can be damaged by associating its brand with another company. The bar for such claims is usually high, because you usually have to prove that the company violating the labeling laws is somehow associated with something obscene, sexual, drug-related, or illegal. In cases involving marijuana businesses, it is less difficult to remove the burden of proof.

It should be noted that until marijuana is legal at the federal level, trademark protection from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will not be possible. However, there are other ways for cannabis companies to protect their brands, and our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers are here to help.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW group represents manufacturers, dispensaries, suppliers, patients, doctors and individuals accused of marijuana possession. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources :

How cannabis companies can protect their brands, 29. October 2020, Bloomberg Act

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