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As Cannabis Is Legalized, Some Strains Have to be Renamed

By Sean McCaughan
May 10, 2018

Historically, when merely possessing a joint could get you thrown in jail for years, the fact that your favorite strain might be named after a Star Wars character or child’s candy was of little concern. However, with increasing legality, being aware of other laws, like those covering intellectual property, means that many popular and highly prized cannabis strains are having to be renamed to preserve their very existence. An additional result, however, is the casual consumer looking for his favorite bud on the legal market may find himself lost without a good strain guide.

Often, strain names will go up in smoke as preventative measures against legal action. For example, the popular Ewok is now called Alien Walker. Skywalker is now Mazar x Blueberry, and Skywalker OG, is now Mazar x Blueberry OG, according to a recent blog post on Leafly. In these situations, as examples, each strain has been renamed to avoid the long legal arm of George Lucas’ Star Wars corporate machine. Interestingly, Leafly’s strain pages don’t even always contain their old names for translation purposes.

Leafly’s legal counsel described the predicament.

“Traditionally, a trademark has only been enforceable for certain classes of goods or services for which you filed the mark,” explains Leafly’s corporate counsel, Deserae Weitmann. “However, there are exceptions. One exception is tarnishing of a famous mark, wherein brands can argue that association of a well-known mark or famous mark with certain goods and/or services, which the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) refers to an ‘unsavory association,’ causes dilution of their trademark.”

“Brands that hold famous marks related to entertainment that would be enjoyed by minors, candy, or other goods that would be consumed by minors, or other similar goods or services that are marketed to minors, are especially sensitive to association with the cannabis industry,” Weitmann adds.

Some brands have gotten into legal trouble as well. Last year, the popular Gorilla Glue #4 strain, bred by GG Strains, got in trouble with—you guessed it—Gorilla Glue, the adhesive company. Now GG Strains’ popular strains are known as GG4, GG1, and GG5, according to Leafly. The dispute and ongoing branding efforts cost the company an estimated $250,000 the CEO told The Cannabist in October.

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