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California approves trademark applications for cannabis

Cannabis is now legal in California, and Jan. 1, the state began issuing cannabis licenses for adult use to business owners. But when it comes to cannabis businesses, lawmakers still have some work to do regarding trademarks and service marks.

Cannabizfile, a website hosted by the Secretary of State, contained information last year when the website was announced on Dec. 17, 2018, about trademark registration for cannabis. In its FAQ section, the information stated that as of January 2018, cannabis-related trademarks or service marks would be eligible for registration as long as the mark was: 1) being lawfully utilized in California, and 2) it fit the "classification of goods and services adopted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office [USPTO]."

A special note was tacked on with bold emphasis stating that "Not all cannabis-related products can be registered under current law due to the inability to meet federal classifications." An examiner from the Secretary of State Trademark Office further clarified the note by explaining that cannabis trademark registrations would not be granted because there were no federal classifications for cannabis.

A bill (AB 64), which proposes two new classes for cannabis use, has been halted in legislature since last year with no action taken on it. However, on Jan. 12, 2018, the Secretary of State Trademark Office extended their application process and included cannabis products and services under some classes currently existing in the Nice Classification System used by the USPTO. These classes include things such as "food and substances adapted for medical use" and "cigarettes without tobacco for medical purposes" (Class 5); "natural plants and flowers" (Class 31); and "tobacco substitutes (not for medical purposes)" (Class 34).

Since the state expanded the trademark applications to include these classes, the AB 64 bill may remain halted indefinitely. The problem seems to be resolved, at least for now.

Trademarks and service marks are important for many businesses to protect their brand. It is good to know that cannabis business owners can now have the same protection as other California business owners.

If you have a business and have not registered your trademark or service mark, it is something you should do. It is helpful to have an attorney process your application for you. Trademark laws require correct classification of goods and services.

Source: JDSupra, "Proposed Trademark Classes for Cannabis-Related Marks in Doubt as California Allows Registration under Existing Classes," Wilson Elser, March 09, 2018

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