By: John Acito
Trademarks are important to every business, especially to those that operate in the fledgling cannabis space.
Brief Rundown of Trademarks
Trademarks give you protection over your brand. Specifically, trademarks give you the right to use a name or logo in connection with the goods you sell, the services you provide, or both. Trademarks can cover your company name, a product line, a jingle, a certain color, and many other distinctive aspects of your brand. Trademarks identify you as the owner of the mark, lets the public know that you are the owner, and grants you exclusive use of the mark in connection with your good/service and similar goods/services. (1)(Click the first link at the bottom for a more thorough trademark rundown from the USPTO).
6 Reasons To Trademark Your Cannabis Brand
1.) Stopping Infringers
One of the main reasons people apply for a trademark is to stop others from using similar logos or names. Once you have trademark protection, you have the right to police marketplaces and take action (such as a cease and desist letter) against other companies that are using your likeness. Being able to stop infringers from copying your brand identity can be a valuable tool to compete in crowded markets.
2.) Settlements from Infringers
Not only do trademarks give you exclusive rights to stop infringers, but you can also sue for damages against others who refuse to take your cease and desist requests seriously. Having proper trademark protection in place may impact your strategies for reaching potential settlements.
3.) Break Away from a Crowded Space
In an industry filled with colorful designs, humorous names, and trendy apparel and accessories, getting a trademark may set your company apart from the competition. The cannabis space is filled with some of the most creative groups of people who are all enthusiastic and passionate about what they do. If you find yourself with a unique logo or a catchy brand name, obtaining a trademark can preserve that uniqueness.
4.) Leverage in Negotiations
The cannabis industry is still at its infancy. Only a few more dominoes need to fall before the country as a whole fully embraces this emerging market. As a result of this impending market boom, companies are rushing to get their feet firmly planted in the space. Storefronts are being built, employees are being hired, distributors are being coordinated, and investors are backing this scaling. However, in the rush to be first to market, many of these cannabis companies are forgetting to get the proper legal protection for their companies; trademarks being one of them. When the larger pharmaceutical companies finally feel comfortable enough to break into the space, having a trademark as well as other intellectual property in place may be your only line of defense from being absorbed. Additionally, if and when these larger companies start buying up and consolidating the operations in the cannabis space, your trademark may increase your company’s value for merger negotiations.
5.) Be Legit!
The stigma with owning a cannabis company is that the products being sold are still not fully endorsed by the country. However, this stigma is rapidly eroding. One way to fix this stigma is to establish your company in the most legitimate manner. There are many legal instruments out there that are available to companies in this space. Getting a trademark on your brand or logo is just one way to make other companies, and more importantly, potential investors take you seriously.
6.) Attracts Investors
How many times on the show Shark Tank have the sharks asked companies pitching their products or services if they have any proprietary protection? At least once a show, a company expresses that they have some sort of intellectual property attached to their business. It can range from a patent on their inventions to a trademark on their logos. The main takeaway here is that sharks and investors put a certain value on a company’s intellectual property. It further demonstrates that you have your stuff together and that you’ve made an investment for your company’s future.
The cannabis industry is filled with artistic and passionate people who should be allowed to legally protect their brands. While there are many other legal instruments that cannabis startups can use for their businesses, trademarks offer a solid start in building any company’s intellectual property portfolio.