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Hemp/Cannabis/CBD Trademarks: An Interview With Evoke Law’s Mary Shapiro and Nicole Syzdek

Originally posted by Corsearch Establishing Hemp/Cannabis/CBD brands starts with proper trademark research and clearance. As the cannabis industry continues to grow nationally, cannabis operators, whether manufacturers, cultivators, retailers, distributors, etc., have increasing ability to secure trademark protection. In order to avail themselves of such protection, businesses will need to ensure that their brand is: available, registrable, and enforceable. Further, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the domestic cultivation of hemp, as well as production of hemp-derived CBD products (with some exceptions), which industry experts agree will lead to an explosion of new brands in the marketplace. Over the last two years, Corsearch has developed a new Cannabis Industry Search designed for the unique nuances and considerations in the cannabis industry. Corsearch Account Manager Alyssa Christensen recently asked industry experts Mary Shapiro and Nicole Syzdek at Evoke Law to discuss the current cannabis product marketplace and the importance of and challenges associated with proper clearance for marks.  Even though Cannabis and CBD marks are not allowed to be federally registered, can you discuss why you think it is important to clear your client’s possible trademark? Actually, you can register cannabis marks federally. While you cannot register marks for marijuana or marijuana-derived products (meaning, where the THC content is over 0.3%), you can register marks for ancillary services, such as; providing information about cannabis online, offering educational services, and providing advocacy services for legalizing cannabis. However, for hemp-derived cannabis and products (meaning, where the THC content is less than 0.3%), you can register marks for actual cannabis products, including; flower, concentrates, topicals, and more (but not ingestible products such as edibles, tinctures, sublinguals, and supplements, as these violate the Food, Drug, and...

Upcoming Changes to Canadian Trademark Law

We love our Canadian neighbors! Significant changes to Canadian trademark law are taking effect on June 17, 2019, and here is what you should know: ►   As of that date, Canada will be a member of the Madrid Protocol, an international filing system in nearly 120 countries, which allows you to file applications through the World Intellectual Property Office filing system, at a lower cost and maintain marks through renewals at a lower cost. (Note: This filing system has disadvantages in certain circumstances.) ►  Canada is adopting the Nice Classification System, the same class system the majority of the world already uses. Meaning, when filing in Canada you will have to classify goods and services into the 45 different classes, as we presently do in the U.S. This will result in significant cost increases for Canadian filings as the Trademark Office will be imposing a “per class” filing cost. ►   Canada will no longer require proof of use prior to registration. This will apply to pending applications as well as new applications. Meaning, you will no longer have to submit a “Declaration of Use” to obtain a registration certificate. This allows for you to effectively reserve your brand name for 3 years from the date of registration, after which, a registration may be vulnerable for non-use. [Evidence of use in Canada will be necessary during the first 3 years if you enforce your rights from a trademark registration through litigation.] ►  The registration fee is being eliminated for new applications filed after June 17th. If your application is pending, there will still be a registration fee due after...

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Trademark Office Issues Guidance on Applications for Hemp and CBD Products

In the wake of the 2018 Farm Bill, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (Trademark Office) issued an Examination Guide regarding the prosecution of applications covering hemp derived goods and services. The great news is that there is a pathway to federally registering brand names for hemp-based cannabinoid products, though there are some caveats and restrictions that we discuss below. Despite this significant advance, applications for hemp-derived cannabinoid products applied-for prior to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill face some challenges. First, a recap of what remains the same: The Trademark Office reiterated that registrations will not issue for goods and services that are derived from “marijuana,” as defined under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), because marijuana remains federally unlawful. This also includes “paraphernalia” that is primarily intended for use in manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing marijuana. Keep in mind that CBD may be derived from either marijuana (as defined under the CSA) or hemp (as defined by the 2018 Farm Bill). Under the 2018 Farm Bill, many hemp products are now federally lawful, so long as the products comes from any part of the Cannabis sativa L. plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. However, federal registration is not available for all hemp products: United Sates Department of Agriculture (USDA) Controls Domestic Production: While the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp goods potentially lawful if they are derived from “hemp” (i.e., contain less than 0.3% THC), to date, the USDA has not promulgated regulations, created its own hemp-production plan, or approved any state or...

Trademark Priority: First-in-time, first-in-right . . . but not always.

When two businesses offer the same or similar products or services under the same or confusingly similar mark, the first question is who has superior trademark rights. Superior rights go to the user with “priority,” a term of art in trademark law. In the U.S., with some exceptions, priority is generally determined by the first party to use a mark in commerce. But, determining who first used the mark in commerce is not necessarily straightforward, because it can relate specifically to the date of first use, but also the geographical extent of use, whether one business has filed an intent-to-use application (discussed below), or whether one business already owns a federal trademark registration. Below we discuss the some of factors that impact trademark priority through hypothetical scenarios. Scenario 1 – Common Law User v. Common Law User: July 4, 2018  ABC LLC starts selling balloons under the brand BLOOMERS throughout California. July 6, 2018  XYZ LLC starts selling balloons under the brand BLOOMERS throughout Illinois. Common law (unregistered) rights are granted to the first user of a particular mark in commerce; however, common law rights are limited to the specific geographic area in which the products are sold or services are offered. In this set of circumstances, beginning on July 4, 2018, ABC developed common law rights in California, and beginning on July 6, 2018, XYZ developed common law rights in Illinois. Both are senior users within their separate territories. Though ABC started using the mark first, its rights in California do not extend into Illinois, and XYZ’s rights do not extend into California. This means that ABC could...

2018 Farm Bill: Registering Trademarks & Distribution of Hemp Products

On December 20, 2018, President Trump signed the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (“2018 Farm Bill”), which marked a monumental shift in federal policy towards cannabis. So, what changed? Significantly, the 2018 Farm Bill defines “hemp” as the Cannabis Sativa L. plant, any parts of the cannabis plant, and all derivatives therefrom, having a THC concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis, and removes “hemp” from the CSA’s definition of marijuana. Meaning, hemp (and all that is derived from hemp) is no longer a controlled substance under the CSA. That is, all hemp with a THC content of less than 0.3% is lawful—whether sourced internationally or grown pursuant to the 2014 Farm Bill. Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill expressly clarifies that commercialization and interstate transportation, as well as import and export, of hemp-derived products is federally lawful. However, the implementation date of certain aspects of the 2018 Farm Bill is unclear. While this is a huge win for the cannabis industry, the 2018 Farm Bill does not legalize all hemp-derived products everywhere in the U.S. What is still federally unlawful? Even if the CBD comes from hemp, the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetics Act (enforced by the FDA) prevents the sale of products containing CBD that are for ingestion, unless they have undergone the FDA’s drug approval process. The FDA’s limitation applies specifically to ingestible products, e.g., supplements, oral sprays, edibles, and tinctures. Meaning, CBD-infused topicals and vape products appear to be in the clear (at least, for now). Additionally, the FDA has and will continue to enforce against companies selling CBD products that claim...