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Woodstock Sues Woodstock Over Cannabis Branding Rights

July 30, 2019
This is a view of part of the crowd at the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival held on a 600-acre pasture in the Catskill Mountains near White Lake in Bethel, N.Y., in Aug. 1969. The festival, billed as "Thee Days of Peace and Music," started on Friday, Aug. 15. More than 450,000 persons attended. (AP Photo)
A judge says the owners of the Woodstock music festival name can license it to create a cannabis brand marking the 50th anniversary of the famed gathering. That anniversary will occur in approximately two weeks.

U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe on Monday rejected a claim that the deal would infringe on the name of another company, Woodstock Roots.

One Woodstock owns the festival name. The other Woodstock sells t-shirts and CBD oil.

Gardephe concluded the nature of the planned Woodstock-branded recreational marijuana and a competitor’s cannabis-related smoking paraphernalia are different.

Woodstock Ventures, which produced the 1969 Woodstock festival, and Woodstock Roots sued each other last year. Woodstock Roots does business as Woodstock American Products, based in Telford, Pennsylvania. The company sells t-shirts, lighters, rolling papers, vape pods, and CBD oil.

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The judge ruled that Woodstock Roots had secured trademark rights to the name for selling “smoker’s articles,” but had contended in earlier filings that those articles were not intended for smoking.

Woodstock Ventures argued recreational cannabis falls within its “natural zone of expansion” under federal trademark law. It is working on a deal with a major cannabis dispensary.

It’s unclear whether that will actually happen.

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What About the Anniversary Show?

It’s also unclear whether the 50th anniversary concert will go on.

Back in January, original festival co-founder Michael Lang announced that he was organizing a Woodstock 50 event at Watkins Glen, New York. But by March, there were signs that the big show might not happen. Without the backing of a major promotional firm like Live Nation, agents began demanding 100% of their artists’ fees be paid up front. (See under: Lesson learned, Fyre Festival.) In April, organizers missed their originally schedule on-sale date for tickets. Since then, tickets have never gone on sale.

Meanwhile, on the Woodstock 50 web site, the organizers remain hopeful. “Our intention holds firm,” the site says. “To deliver a world-class, once-in-a-lifetime festival to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock.”

Leafly staff contributed to this report.

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  • Recreational marijuana is still not legal in New York (a bill decriminalizing its use in the state will take effect in late August), but that still did not stop two litigants from asking the Southern District of New York to weigh-in on who owns rights to sell it using the mark WOODSTOCK. Woodstock Roots, the producers of the famous 1969 Woodstock music festival, originally filed suit in New York seeking to shut down use of the mark WOODSTOCK to sell cannabis. It based its initial claims on federal trademark registrations for concerts, TV, motion pictures, and related merchandise. The defendant cannabis companies counterclaimed, asserting federal registrations for the same mark in connection with smokers articles and related goods. The defendants also moved for a preliminary injunction, seeking to enjoin Woodstock Roots from selling cannabis and cannabis-related products. Ultimately, the defendants’ motion went up in smoke when the court found, among other things, that gross sales of their WOODSTOCK-branded product last year amounted to only $12,000, a fact that strongly undermined any likelihood of success on the merits. Oddly, the New York court also found that “recreational marijuana” and “smokers articles” are not related. Ultimately, this case is buzzworthy for not only the fact that it is one of the first such cases of its kind, but also because this federal court did not seem even remotely concerned about the complex legality of cannabis under federal law.

  • Recreational marijuana is still not legal in New York (a bill decriminalizing its use in the state will take effect in late August), but that still did not stop two litigants from asking the Southern District of New York to weigh-in on who owns rights to sell it using the mark WOODSTOCK. Woodstock Ventures, the producers of the famous 1969 Woodstock music festival, originally filed suit in New York seeking to shut down use of the mark WOODSTOCK to sell cannabis. It based its initial claims on federal trademark registrations for concerts, TV, motion pictures, and related merchandise. The defendant cannabis companies, Woodstock Roots, counterclaimed, asserting federal registrations for the same mark in connection with smokers articles and related goods. The defendants also moved for a preliminary injunction, seeking to enjoin plaintiffs from selling cannabis and cannabis-related products. Ultimately, the defendants’ motion went up in smoke when the court found, among other things, that gross sales of their WOODSTOCK-branded product last year amounted to only $12,000, a fact that strongly undermined any likelihood of success on the merits. Oddly, the New York court also found that “recreational marijuana” and “smokers articles” are not related. Ultimately, this case is buzzworthy for not only the fact that it is one of the first such cases of its kind, but also because this federal court did not seem even remotely concerned about the complex legality of cannabis under federal law.