Why you can’t Trademark a Cannabis Business

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is a federal government organization. The fact that cannabis remains on the schedule of illegal and dangerous drugs limits it from most patenting and trademarking of businesses in and related to such an “illegal” industry.

Let’s look at how this works. The USPTO is the department that allows US citizens to register a name and/or a visual mark for a business that can be a logo or an icon in a particular category or industry in order to protect that business from being copied and business being done under their name. This way if you started a restaurant call Knobby’s Salads in California and were planning on going national within a few years, no one could use the same name and make money off of your reputation in New York. If they did, you could sue them and they would owe you.

Categories

Now, let’s look at the categories. You can register a name in the category of textiles, or advertising, or education and entertainment, you can enter the beverage category, on and on and on it goes. There are 45 main categories with subcategories. In fact here is a great article on NOLO.com about all of the categories.

Guess what? There is no “Cannabis” category. You can’t register a dispensary or a grow operation. So what have people been doing? They have been registering as “retail” and “flower shop” and “farmer” and things of that nature. This can be risky. If the USPTO catches you being a little shady and not forthcoming, they will deny your trademark and you will have to start over, like, choose a new name.

Whoops.

What else have they been doing? Companies will literally start a t-shirt company with the same name as their farm in order to register the name in the T-shirt category, the printing category and the advertising category. Some companies have been known to start as many little ventures as possible in order to register their name in as many categories as possible. This is less risky as it is more honest. This strategy will also make it so that they will be more likely to get their trademark in the cannabis category once it opens up. This strategy is also not cheap as you have to pay the fee for every category you register in.

So in conclusion, this is another reason why you need to heed the guidance of my four posts on Trademarking and Naming.

Post 1
Post 2
Post 3
Post 4

You would also do well to hire someone who is great at branding as well as a great trademark and patent attorney so you can nail this once and for all, the first time you do it rather than scrambling and starting over again and again.

Good luck out there making a scene in the world and I hope this post helps you or someone you know get started on the right foot.

Jesse Barney