While legalized cannabis may present an exciting new business frontier for many entrepreneurs, it can also lead to traditional disputes over intellectual property. United Parcel Service has filed suit against a group of marijuana delivery businesses for infringing its trademarks. In its lawsuit that was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, UPS also claims the companies are engaging in deceptive advertising.
The delivery company is suing United Pot Smokers, UPS420 and THCPlant, claiming that the companies use "confusingly similar" names, logos and images that resemble its famous initials and shield trademarks. According to the lawsuit, the companies also use websites containing the term "UPS" to sell their cannabis products. UPS said that it sent the companies three cease-and-desist letters in 2018, but it moved to the courts when the companies did not respond or change their names and website URLs. The company said that in addition to potential confusion on customers' part, it could also face reputational harm due to people believing that it is involved in the cannabis business. It also raised concerns that the quality of the defendants' business could further injure its reputation.
A federal judge denied the delivery company's request to obtain a temporary restraining order blocking the defendants from using the disputed names and logos. Instead, they must respond before the end of February. UPS wants them permanently barred from using the disputed names as well as financial damages.
Trademark holders have the right to aggressively protect this type of asset in order to retain their exclusive use. When businesses are unsure about what they can do, an intellectual property litigation attorney can provide guidance and representation in protecting creative products in an era of digital competition.
Source: Marijuana Business Daily, "UPS sues California cannabis delivery companies for infringing on trademark", Feb. 18, 2019