Trademark board hands setback to marijuana businesses

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A federal trademark board has issued a major setback to marijuana businesses seeking federal protection for trademarks and patents.

The Trademark Trial and Appeals Board (TTAB) of the US Patent and Trademark Office ruled earlier this month that owners of state-licensed marijuana retailers can’t receive federal trademark protection on marks that are connected to cannabis sales because of marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 substance, according to an analysis by Ashe Puri at the Fox Rothschild law firm.

The ruling stems from a trademark application from Morgan Brown, a Washington State resident who owns a recreational marijuana store in the state and a related website. Brown applied to register “Herbal Access,” but a federal patent examiner denied the bid.

The TTAB, in a July 14 ruling, affirmed the examiner’s decision, reasoning that “the fact that the provision of a product or service may be lawful within a state is irrelevant to the question of federal registration when it is unlawful under federal law.”