It is well known that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) does not allow federal registration for cannabis-related trademarks (discussed by this blog here and here). Some commenters have speculated that, because courts have been chipping away at the bans on immoral, scandalous, and disparaging trademarks, the ban on federal trademark registrations related to illegal activity may be next.
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Strong intellectual property is the cornerstone of most start-up companies, and in most cases it is the key asset utilized by companies in securing financing and investment.  Studies have estimated that non-tangible assets represent over 80% of an average business’ value, and when it comes to startups, the number is even higher.[1]  The marijuana industry, because of its uncertain legal status under federal law, is at a strategic disadvantage, but despite this fact, the industry has still continued to blossom and is currently valued at $6.7 B and is expected to rise to almost $20 B by 2020.[2]  However, failure to secure traditional forms of intellectual property (i.e., patents, trademarks, and copyrights) should not dissuade marijuana entrepreneurs from the inherent value intellectual property.  Developing a keen business strategy around both traditional and non-traditional forms of intellectual property can open the door to additional revenue opportunities.
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The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB” or the “Board”) recently affirmed two refusals to register trademarks:

1) an intent-to-use trademark application for POWERED BY JUJU for “smokeless cannabis vaporizing apparatus, namely, oral vaporizers for smoking purposes; vaporizing cannabis delivery device, namely, oral vaporizers for smoking purposes”, initially refused based on a lack of bona fide intent to use the mark in lawful commerce; and

2) a use-based application for JUJU JOINTS for “smokeless marijuana or cannabis vaporizer apparatus, namely, oral vaporizers for smokers; vaporizing marijuana or cannabis delivery device, namely, oral vaporizers for smoking purposes”, initially refused based on lack of lawful use in U.S. commerce.
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Earlier this month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) issued a decision that presents relevant considerations for those in the fast-growing marijuana industry.  In the decision (In re Morgan Brown), the TTAB affirmed the rejection of a service mark application to register the below HERBAL ACCESS & Design mark in connection with “retail store services featuring herbs” because the TTAB found that the mark was actually being used in connection with the sale of marijuana.

herbalaccess


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