In what seems like a lifetime ago, I worked for a national investment firm in Chicago that changed it’s name and got into some serious hot water. A portion of the firm had been sold along with the name and the remaining part of the business needed to get a new name. It just so happened that the new name the company started using was already in use by a consumer financial services company. Moral of the story, even big companies can mess up when they brand themselves!
Let me tell you, this company was “all in” including letterhead, press releases, billboards, and business cards that had been paid for and shipped to the various branches around the country. The company had to throw out all their marketing and sales materials, pay a fine to the company who already had the name trademarked and rebrand itself ASAP! That is the power of a “Cease and Desist” letter!
Over the past few years I’ve noticed an increase in the number of news stories involving cannabis companies and trademark infringement lawsuits. Now that cannabis is becoming legalized across more states, cannabis businesses need to begin operating more like traditional businesses by conducting name searches and trademark searches before branding their products.
The most popular stories regarding this issue involve the lawsuit filed by the company Gorilla Glue against GG Strains. The basics of the lawsuit said that by using a similar name, GG Strains was capitalizing on the investment and good will that Gorilla Glue has in the market and also diluting the value of its name. Hershey Co. sued two dispensaries in federal court for trademark infringement claiming that the strains Hashheath and Dabby Patty were stolen from Hershey’s Heath Bar and York Peppermint Patty candies.
There are other stories that involve cases that did not go to court. One involved the Girl Scouts of America sending Cease and Desist letters to multiple cannabis companies using Girl Scout Cookies in their strain names.
In addition to not infringing on someone’s name and trademark, cannabis businesses need to also focus on monetizing and protecting their own brand.
Soon we may see names like “Vader”, “Alien”, and “ACDC” disappear from strain names. As the industry goes more mainstream it is imperative that branding be addressed in the planning stages. Not spending time and money on branding early on could come back to create big headaches later in the game!
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