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The Anatomy of a Cannabis Trademark

Get practical, hands-on advice from a top lawyer in the cannabis industry on how to protect and maximize the value of your company’s intellectual property

04/12/2018

Stacy Allura Hostetter Associate Attorney at the Law Offices of Omar Figueroa

For any company in the cannabis industry, officially licensed and protected trademarks are a potential source of competitive advantage. And that’s especially true now that there has been a huge increase in the number of products within this emerging category – often times, consumers will make the decision of whether or not to buy your product based on factors related to branding, packaging and overall brand perception. But what happens when a competitor decides to introduce a product that looks similar or has a similar name?

That’s why your cannabis trademark is so important to protect, says Stacy Allura Hostetter, an Associate Attorney at the Law Offices of Omar Figueroa. At the upcoming 2019 Cannabis Drinks Expo in San Francisco, Hostetter will explain cannabis trademarks from top to bottom. She will outline how to identify potential trademarks, how to select the most profitable ones, how to perform clearance of those trademarks, and then how to register that trademark at both the state and federal level.

Too many companies, says Hostetter, make the mistake of assuming that their trademarks are automatically protected. But that’s not always the case, she says. For example, some categories of trademarks are prohibited by law. In other cases, they are already taken by third parties. Even if a product is not already on the market, the specific trademark may already be registered for future use, so you really have to do your due diligence.

Failure to take the right steps to protect your trademark can have significant negative consequences for your new cannabis-based offering, Hostetter points out. For one, you might waste marketing dollars promoting a product that other competitors are copying or adapting for their own use. And you may lose consumer goodwill if they mistakenly purchase a product they think is yours, and the product turns out to be flawed. Moreover, there are potentially significant costs involved with litigation or re-branding. Therefore, selecting and protecting a strong trademark is absolutely vital for your company’s success.

And what happens if, despite all best efforts on your part, you find that your trademark is being infringed? Hostetter will walk participants through potential enforcement actions. And she will also outline how to maintain a trademark’s value through licensing agreements.

In terms of trademarks and other intellectual property, the cannabis industry is often very unique, especially when it comes to deciding how your products can be advertised and marketed at the point of sale. With that in mind, Hostetter will provide plenty of practical, hands-on advice for cannabis drinks companies concerned that they might not be taking enough steps to protect their trademarks and other intellectual property.

At the end of the day, your cannabis trademark is one of your most important assets. It is certainly your most public asset and one that is most visibly connected to your company in the minds of potential consumers. For anyone thinking of launching a new product or a new company, trademarks should be top of mind from the very beginning. They should be treated as a valuable asset and one that needs to be fully protected. Doing so will allow you to focus on what matters most: growing your company, and not getting caught up in unwanted litigation.