Influential celebrities like Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg may have found some initial success in building their own marijuana brands, but for the common marijuana entrepreneur, the process is not that easy. In fact, building brands is another challenge for this fledgling industry in the face of federal law limitations, with patents and trademarks being regulated by the federal government.
“You can’t go into federal court to get federal benefits if you’re a drug dealer,” said Sam Kamin, a law professor from the University of Denver. Despite this hurdle, hundreds of marijuana-related patents have been requested from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, even though federal authorities have either ignored or rejected these requests.
“They haven’t issued a single patent yet,” said Eric Greenbaum of Vireo Health, which is seeking a patent for a marijuana strain that treats seizures. “But generally speaking, there is broad agreement within the patent law community that they will.”
Marijuana companies are already doing everything that they can while waiting for the federal patents. For instance, they have already filed state-level trademarks in states where weed is considered legal, like in Colorado where almost 700 trade names and 200 marijuana-related trademarks have already been registered. They have also trademarked their logos and packaging processes.
Unfortunately, the marijuana industry has received lots of cease-and-desist orders from companies with protected patents. For example, the Girl Scouts of the USA has admittedly send dozens of such letters to sellers of a popular pot strain known as Girl Scout Cookies. “The use of our trademarks in connection with drugs tarnishes the Girl Scouts’ name,” the organization said in their letters, which were mostly sent to pot sellers in Colorado, Washington, and California.
Hershey Co. also sued a couple of cannabis companies for selling ‘Reefer’s’ peanut butter cups and ‘Dabby Patty’ candies, which resembled the company’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and York peppermint patties.
At the moment, the benefits of federal protection are not yet open to marijuana manufacturers. But for sellers of celebrity-branded pot products, brands will soon dominate the industry. “Brand differentiation is the normal progression of events,” said John Lord, CEO of chain store LivWell, which sells Leafs by Snoop. “Consumers will see more and more of this in the future.”
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