Trademarks are what we think of as “brand names.” Registering a trademark means that you are the only one who can use that name. Consumers can be confident that a product with a brand name they know and trust will be of consistent type and quality; this builds business loyalty and goodwill. Developing and protecting great branding and will help you grow your cannabis business as increased legalization continues to open more and more opportunities.
Can I trademark my cannabis products?
You can seek trademark protection for logos, designs, or other specialized branding, including color schemes, creative packaging, shapes, sounds, scents, and even holographic images. Developing recognizable branding that identifies your products is the first step towards nurturing customer loyalty.
Although the United States Patent and Trademark Office hasn’t yet approved any federal trademark applications for products directly related to or containing marijuana itself, it has granted applications for marijuana-related products that have other legal uses (water pipes, etc.). Also, many states do provide their own trademark registration protection through their secretary of state offices, including for marijuana products if your state has legalized marijuana.
You must register your trademark separately in each state for which you seek protection. In each state you apply, you will need to run trademark searches and make sure that your brand or logo does not infringe any other trademark, whether registered or not. It is possible to gain “common law” property rights in a mark if you are already using it, without filing for state or federal protection, if it unique enough to not be confusingly similar to any other mark already in use. However, this protection is limited to the geographic area in which you actually use the mark, is difficult to enforce, and doesn’t carry as much protection as federal or even state registration. So, if you have a registered-brand, Denver, Colorado-based marijuana edibles product named “Chocolate Euphoria" that you want to sell in Washington State, you would have to make sure that a product with that name isn’t already trademarked in or being sold in Washington before you can file for trademark protection for it in that state.
Why would I want to trademark my cannabis products?
Different strains of marijuana and different blends and preparations are being invented every day, each with different characteristics and effects. Is your product:
- A trendy strain?
- A unique combination of strains?
- Highly potent?
- A great value?
- An easy, mellow high?
- An energetic, productive high?
- A specific medicinal preparation?
Whatever your brand’s attributes, being able to trademark your product and its identifying characteristics (packaging, design, etc.) will help you more successfully and accurately market its selling points. Unique and distinctive branding helps consumers know and trust your products and develops valuable goodwill for your company.
Spend some time thinking about who your target customers are and creating a branding and marketing strategy to reach them. For example, if your target audience is “parents looking for alternative medicine treatment for their kids,“ your branding will emphasize safety, treatment, and efficacy for medical use.
For consumers, recognizable branding can help solve some of the problems with the current distribution system. Being able to purchase a trusted product would mean they would know what they were getting every time and be more able to regulate dosage and effects.
These strategies can help you grow your business now, while you develop and protect your trademark branding on a state-by-state basis. When national legalization is achieved, your brand may become even more valuable – enabling you either to expand or to sell to the large-scale corporations that will inevitably join the marketplace (maybe even allowing you to buy marijuana at big-box stores). The trust and authority that builds up around an established product adds value to your business, so get started now!
Need help developing your cannabis branding and marketing strategy? Contact Blue Frog! We would be happy to help you craft a marijuana business marketing strategy to promote your success. We have two offices, one in Des Moines, IA, and the other in Denver, CO, and we serve both large and small businesses across the country. We can help you take your Colorado, Oregon, or other legal cannabis business to the next level with branding, industry-specific social media marketing, knowledgeable and insightful blogging, and other highly effective inbound marketing techniques.