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Trademarks and Branding in the Cannabis Industry

Malek, ShabnamScitech Lawyer; Chicago Vol. 13, Iss. 3,  (Spring 2017): 12-13,30.

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Protecting IP in the Shadow of the CSA

There is a lot happening in the cannabis industry right now. There has been a lot happening in the cannabis industry for quite some time, though much of the country never sees any of it. Sales of medical cannabis in the United States increased from $5.5 billion in 2015 to $6.7 billion in 2016.1 To give those numbers some context, in 2015 hobby games were a roughly $1.2 billion market,2 and U.S. box office revenues were just over $ 11 billion.3 At its current size, and projected to exceed $20 billion by 2020, the cannabis industry will spawn names as big as Warner Bros, and MGM.

What makes up this multibillion dollar industry? Of course there have been cannabis cultivators and flower sellers, but now there is so much more. Some companies sell cannabis-infused products like lotion, cookies, kale chips, tea, capsules, breath strips, and even a patch you can put on your arm to stave off hunger. Others manufacture cannabis "extracts"-cannabis flower concentrated into forms that maybe "vaped" like e-cigarettes or infused into food or other products. And still other sectors of the cannabis industry offer entirely different products ranging from devices that aid in the infusion or consumption of cannabis to software that assists dispensaries with inventory management. You don't exceed a billion dollars in sales selling baggies of stems and seeds.

Amid this explosion, product choices have grown and patients and consumers have begun to expect more from the products they purchase. Similarly, source identity and consumer protection have become more important than ever as patients and consumers expect consistency, reliability, quality, and safety.

Enter Cannabis Branding

Readers somewhat familiar with cannabis may assume cannabis brands refer to different "strains" of cannabis: for example, OG Kush, Blue Dream, or the...