California Opens Trademark Registration for Cannabis Brands

By: Vivek Vaidya

The new year started on a positive note for cannabis brands with the legalization of recreational marijuana.  In conjunction, the state announced that it will now be accepting applications for trademarks associated with recreational cannabis.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla launched an online portal called Cannabizfile to help entrepreneurs join the fast-growing cannabis industry. The portal provides step-by-step information on how to run a cannabis enterprise in California, including how to protect brands through trademark registration.

Trademark law provides protection to the names, slogans, phrases and logos that distinguish one company’s goods and services. Brand owners typically apply for the nation-wide protection through federal registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  However, registration with the USPTO is only allowed for goods and services that are lawfully used in commerce. Cannabis brands have long been restricted from registration due to federal drug laws, as it remains a Schedule 1 narcotic under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Parallel to the federal registration system, California state trademark registration also requires a “lawful commercial use” of one’s product and services.  Now that recreational cannabis has been legalized, cannabis companies can reap the benefits of trademark registration at the state level.

State registration of the mark serves as a public notice of the brand’s use.  It also provides evidence of first use, which is the basis for deciding trademark conflicts, and allows for legal causes of action under the California Business and Professions Code.

There are a few drawbacks to state trademark registration.  Unlike applications filed with the USPTO, state applications cannot be filed on an “intent to use” basis.  This means cannabis brands must be operating in compliance with state law in order to register. Furthermore, state registration only provides protection for brands operating within the jurisdiction.

As long as recreation marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, cannabis businesses are wise to register their trademarks at the state level.  Contact BLG Trademarks to help you with the process of protecting your cannabis brands in California, and obtain the right to stop competitors from cashing in on your goodwill.

Disclaimer: This article discusses general legal issues and developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current law in your jurisdiction. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.  Bend Law Group, PC expressly disclaims all liability in respect of any actions taken or not taken based on any contents of this article.