The introduction of certain marijuana laws around the U.S. has naturally introduced some complications in the legal world. Compliance is certainly near the top of the list as a concern for new businesses, particularly as various states have approved different levels of usage of the drug, but the substance itself remains federally illegal. But newer concerns in the trademark sector for those in the legal marijuana trade have recently cropped up with the news that Hershey Co is suing a Colorado maker of marijuana edibles.
TinctureBelle LLC makes edible products containing marijuana, and Hershey is suing for trademark infringement, claiming that certain products the company sells contain packaging that is too similar to some Hershey products including Heath, Reese’s, Almond Joy, and York peppermint patties.
As part of Hershey’s concern, it has said that TinctureBelle’s packaging actually poses a threat to consumers who could potentially ingest products mistaken for Hershey’s candy when in fact those products contain marijuana.
TinctureBelle has responded — despite noting that it has not been served any papers yet — claiming that its abidance by the Colorado laws of marijuana distribution wholly prevent it from possibly selling its products to children or other consumers who are not intending to ingest marijuana edibles. Reuters quotes TinctureBelle owner Char Mayes:
"We changed our entire label line approximately six months ago, long before these allegations surfaced. Our new packaging looks nothing like Hershey’s or anyone else’s.”
Indeed, the company’s old packaging looks quite similar to the aforementioned Hershey’s candies. But Mayes also says that Hershey’s lawsuit conveys a deep misunderstanding of the laws in Colorado for the distribution of marijuana.
It should come as no surprise if a rash of new trademark cases arises out of the new legislation approving the use of marijuana in various capacities and in certain states. Businesses that were once not under the legal radar are not in the spotlight in states in which their operations have been legalized. This naturally exposes them more to publicity and puts them in a bigger spotlight as new laws develop. In addition to compliance issues, marijuana-distributing companies must now also be on their toes regarding copyright infringement.