Trademarks in Cannabis: Where Did All the ‘Star Wars’ Strains Go?
When it comes to intellectual property, it appears that the Force is with George Lucas and his formidable legal team.
“Brands that hold famous marks related to entertainment or other goods that would be consumed by minors are especially sensitive to association with the cannabis industry.”Deserae Weitmann, Corporate Counsel at Leafly
While browsing Leafly, you might be wondering what happened to the widely-cherished Skywalker indica or the heavyweight hybrid Ewok. Unfortunately, they recently went up in smoke in a preventative measure as more cannabis strains come under scrutiny for trademark infringement. But don’t worry—you’ll still find these strains under alternative monikers Alien Walker (Ewok), Mazar x Blueberry (Skywalker), and Mazar x Blueberry OG (Skywalker OG).
Last year, GG Strains—breeder of the famous GG4 strain—came under fire with a lawsuit issued by the Gorilla Glue adhesive company, who ordered the cannabis producer to rebrand its top crop. GG Strains has since settled and renamed its prized cuts GG4, GG1, and GG5.
When it comes to cannabis, it becomes particularly easy to ruffle the feathers of trademark stakeholders.
“Traditionally, trademark has only been enforceable for certain classes of goods or services for which you filed the mark,” explains Leafly’s corporate counsel, Deserae Weitmann. “However, there are exceptions. One exception is tarnishing of a famous mark, wherein brands can argue that association of a well-known mark or famous mark with certain goods and/or services, which the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) refers to an ‘unsavory association,’ causes dilution of their trademark.”
But wait, there’s more.
“Brands that hold famous marks related to entertainment that would be enjoyed by minors, candy, or other goods that would be consumed by minors, or other similar goods or services that are marketed to minors, are especially sensitive to association with the cannabis industry,” Weitmann adds.
Trademarks associated with Girl Scouts of America and the German liqueur Jägermeister have also prompted changes to cannabis pages formerly occupied by popular strains once known as Girl Scout Cookies (now GSC) and Jägermeister (now JGR).
Cannabis has long operated in the underground, where no rules or trademarks could be enforced. In fact, piggybacking off popular culture became common practice among dealers scribbling names onto Ziploc bags.
As such, you’ll find a long list of strain names that are now questionable in the light of legalization, regulation, and licensed entities. Keep this in mind the next time you’re having difficulty finding a strain that most definitely steps on some corporate toes when it comes to branding.