Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman investigate whether marijuana brands can be trademarked:
First, names like Strawberry Kush are not necessarily brands, but more like plant varieties, such as Meyer lemon or Alphonso mangoes. Plant varieties in general cannot be trademarked. Instead, breeders essentially get a form of plant patent. … But other pot monikers – like “Charlie Sheen” – don’t refer to a plant variety, but to . . . well, how you might behave if you smoke it. These labels could serve as trademarks – i.e., names or other symbols that identify the source of products. But does what works for apples work for marijuana? In 2010, the federal Patent and Trademark Office created a medical marijuana category for trademark registration. After receiving a number of submissions, someone at the PTO—perhaps wise in the ways of Congress—thought better of this idea and killed it.
But as more states permit medical marijuana, Raustiala and Sprigman insist that "IP protection is sure to follow." With any luck, if sanity continues its winning streak on this, one day we'll have marijuana blends and crops as varied as wines – with different highs, emotions, tastes and after-effects. And some ancient, exhausted volcano of a blogger could get to end his life as a very mellow critic.
(Photo: A sample of various strains of medical marijuana in one-eigth ounce containers at PureLife Alternative Wellness Center on July 27, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. By Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.)