Tips for Protecting Cannabis-Related Intellectual Property in the US

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Protecting a marijuana logo could be as easy as registering it as the trademark of a t-shirt

The quasi-legality of marijuana in the United States makes it difficult for cannabis creatives to protect their intellectual property, but not impossible. Although there still is no way to federally trademark any marijuana brand or idea, businesses are finding ways around the federal law. Here are the top legal tips for protecting marijuana-related intellectual property in the U.S.:

State Trademark Registration

States with “lawful use” of cannabis provide a statewide level of protection for the intellectual property of cannabis businesses. However, businesses operating in states where marijuana is legal report that this form of trademark registration is not always easy to obtain.

Common Law Trademark Rights

Common law rights are more easily attainable for businesses as they only require the mark be used in commerce. However, these rights are limited to the geographic location of the business and are difficult to defend against copycats operating in a different area.

Ancillary Trademark Protection

Several marijuana brands have skirted the federal prohibition on trademark protection for marijuana goods by registering their trademark for use on apparel and accessories. Everything from vape pens and grinders to t-shirts can be used to obtain federal protections. These products can be used to support any infringement claim, thus protecting the brand name or logo of a cannabis business from being used by another brand.

Copyright and Patent Protections

Some businesses that are unable to seek a trademark opt to apply for a copyright or patent protection. This alternative does not require the product to be legal to use. However, the process is much more involved than any of the above options and can take time to receive approval.