One of the most onerous tasks associated with immersing into the new cannabis market is the frustrating inability to trademark and brand one’s product. With a new industry, particularly one as unique and interesting as cannabis, ideas are brimming for the next (and first) big recognized insignia.
Unfortunately, federal prohibition remains in place, creating barriers for growth and development of cannabis businesses in numerous ways. One of those barriers is the lack of federal trademark protection. Bringing an unregulated market industry “into the light” means offering formal safeguards on intellectual property so that competitors won’t be able to infringe upon your brand. But that still has yet to happen at the national level of government, leaving businesses vulnerable.
According to journalist Laurel Rosenhall, the California Legislature has introduced a bill which would offer trademark protection for the anticipated boom in California’s cannabis entrepreneurship following the passage of adult-use legalization this past fall.
The California Secretary of State already has the power to register state-level trademarks, but only for items recognized by federal trademark law. Assembly Bill 64 would change that by allowing the Secretary of State to register trademarks for cannabis goods and services.
Colorado and Washington — two states that legalized recreational marijuana a few years ago — already offer state-level trademarks for pot products, said attorney Amanda Conley, a founder of the National Cannabis Bar Association. Her Brand and Branch law firm in Oakland helps cannabis businesses navigate legal issues related to branding and trademarks.
Without a state-level trademark in California, businesses that want to sell cannabis under a brand name here must find a legal hack around the federal ban on trademarking pot. Conley said she advises companies to seek a federal trademark for the federally lawful goods and services they offer that do not themselves include marijuana. For instance, an entrepreneur could seek to trademark an informative website about the medical uses of marijuana, or the rechargeable batteries used with vaping pipes.
Do you have the next new clever and memorable cannabis brand? Have you included in your business plan the uncertainty of trademark protection? Come to the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco this February 17th for a one-day only meeting of the marijuana minds to learn what you need to know to start a successful company in this brave, new market. Early bird ticket prices end in one week so don’t wait to get yours!