Protecting Cannabis Trademarks in Anticipation of Federal Legalization


As more states legalize cannabis, companies are dealing with the absence of national trademark uniformity.  Currently, there is no legal mechanism to obtain a trademark to sell cannabis across state lines.  Instead, companies are limited to state-wide trademarks.  These limited marks have created a fractured market, with little clarity for businesses in a cannabis industry that continues to grow despite the lack of federal decriminalization.  Although federal lawmakers have signaled that legalization is finally on the horizon, none have tackled the issues that the lack of a uniform trademark system has created.  Companies must be ready to fight for their trademark rights once legal cannabis becomes a national reality.  This article looks ahead to ways in which those fights may play out, and steps that a cannabis company can take to protect its marks in the meantime. Trademark Rights in Cannabis Are Currently Fractured Along State Lines Trademark rights are territorial in nature.  State-by-state legalization has resulted in limited trademark ownership, with rights in cannabis trademarks being effectively divided along state lines.  Without a federal solution, the expansion of state-by-state cannabis legalization has only deepened the fractures in the market. In trademark law, the first use of a mark within a particular territory usually establishes trademark ownership in that territory.  As such, a cannabis company may own a trademark in a given state that (a) is identical to the mark used by a different company in a different state; (b) would be in direct conflict with the other company’s rights if the different states became subject to a uniform system; and (c) is nonetheless a valid mark within the company’s home state.  These issues are particularly significant for cannabis companies that desire to expand into new states, because their expansion plans may be limited or thwarted by a competing claim…

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Source : Protecting Cannabis Trademarks in Anticipation of Federal Legalization

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