By: Paul Hirsch
The arrival of legal recreational marijuana has generated a booming economy, brimming with a variety of branded marijuana plant strains and products. However, the complicated interplay between the marijuana industry and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office presents some challenges for cannabis entrepreneurs.
Cannabis entrepreneurs who named their brands after famous companies like “Girl Scout Cookies” and “Gorilla Glue” to gain popularity in the small medical marijuana economy are now competing in the larger legal economy. Many of these marijuana brands have caught the attention of the trademark owners of these famous brands. This has set the stage for a number of trademark infringement battles between marijuana brands and household brands.
Coined after its sticky buds, the marijuana strain “Gorilla Glue” is among the most popular strains in the U.S. GG Strains LLC capitalized on its success by charging dispensaries for the permission to sell “Gorilla Glue.” The legalization of recreational weed has allowed Gorilla Glue strain to meet many new consumers. After almost all social media mentions of #GorillaGlue involve marijuana, GG Strains’ caught the eye of long-established liquid adhesive company Gorilla Glue Co.
Gorilla Glue Co., has filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit against GG Strains, claiming that the legal weed company is “unlawfully advertising and selling products under a confusingly similar name to Gorilla Glue’s trademark rights.”
Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a trademark on a competing or related goods. The success of a claim to stop the infringement depends on whether the defendant’s use causes a “likelihood of confusion” in the average consumer. To determine likelihood of confusion, the courts will weigh factors such as the similarity of the marks and evidence of actual consumer confusion.
The battle over the “Gorilla Glue” name has already commenced. Representatives for the Gorilla Glue Co. have stated that GG Strains not only took the name, and thus the marks are identical, but intentionally traded on Gorilla Glue’s high-quality adhesive’ stickiness. Meanwhile, GG Strains LLC argues that there is no likelihood of confusion between glue products and marijuana, and that there is plenty of room in the consumer market for both brands.
The Gorilla Glue lawsuit may have far greater implications for the burgeoning marijuana industry. Cannabis entrepreneurs have long borrowed from famous brands and pop culture to name their buds, drinks, and snacks. Well known marijuana strains such as Candyland, AC/DC, Sour Patch Kids, Gorilla Glue are purchased across the country. Now that legalization of recreational marijuana has allowed marijuana companies to compete in a larger economy, and this may require marijuana brands to become more original.
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