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California Bill Provides Trademark Protection for Marijuana Industry

California, long a pioneer in legalizing cannabis, is intent on giving the industry the legal tools to grow.
California Bill Provides Trademark Protection for Marijuana Industry
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In any business, the owner can trademark the name, logo and even images associated with their business with the United States government.

Every business, that is, expect the marijuana business.vThe federal government grants trademarks for businesses but the federal government still classifies marijuana as an illegal drug. That makes getting a trademark at the national level impossible.

However, lawmakers in California, which has been among those leading the way in the new era of legalized marijuana, have proposed a solution for businesses in the Golden State.

California Trademark Proposal

Businesses need trademarks to protect intellectual property, keeping other businesses from stealing names and logos associated with their product and using it on products of their own. The lack of trademark protection in the marijuana industry already has led  a German pipe maker to sue companies in the United States for appropriating their name and placing it on other products.

Under current law, a secretary of state can provide trademark protection for businesses at the state level, but only if they already have a federal trademark.

“Not being able to trademark your brand is a huge setback if you’re trying to get capital investment,” Nate Bradley, a lobbyist for marijuana sellers, told non-profit journalism site Calmatters.com. “If you’re not able to protect what you’re asking people to invest in, you’re not likely to get investments.”

California lawmakers have introduced a bill that would provide that protection. Assembly Bill 64 expands provisions of the Model State Trademark law allow the state to grant trademarks to business that deal in “medical cannabis and nonmedical cannabis goods and services.” Assemblyman Rob Bonta, a Democrat representing the Oakland area, is lead author on the bill.

Both Colorado and Washington have passed similar laws to offer marijuana businesses in those states trademark protection.

Related: Luxury 'Bong' Maker Faces Unique Trademark Infringement Dilemma

Other Provisions of Bill

The bill also restricts advertising for marijuana businesses in California. Some restrictions were included in the amendment passed by voters in November 2016 to legalize recreational marijuana. They include prohibiting the placement of billboards advertising marijuana that are “located on an interstate highway or state highway that crosses the border of any other state.”

Bonta’s bill would expand that language to include all interstate and state highways. It also expands the prohibition to medical cannabis businesses and authorizes the state to use special classification marks on marijuana-related products.

The bill also loans $3 million from the state’s general fund to the California Highway Patrol until proceeds for a state tax on marijuana sales begins bringing in money in 2018. The money is aimed at funding the highway patrol’s efforts at establishing protocols for determining whether is driver is under the influence of marijuana.

The money also will fund research into developing technology that can determine if a person is impaired.

Related: The Little-Mentioned Consequence of Selling Marijuana

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