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How to Protect Intellectual Property Rights for Your Cannabis Business

Intellectual property is one of the most important and most often overlooked aspects of startups and new enterprises. Your intellectual property (IP) is your marketing, your special blend, and your company’s identity. If competitors can freely use your logo, your products, your market research, or your methods, you won’t be in business for long. Below, we discuss intellectual property rights in the cannabis industry and how you can protect those rights. For seasoned, trustworthy advice on your marijuana business or cannabis investment opportunity, contact an experienced California cannabis intellectual property attorney.

Keep Your Trademarks Alive

Trademarks are a form of intellectual property that is protected under California and federal law. The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) defines a trademark as a “word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.”

Trademark protection is essential for any business: Your corporate name, your logo, your merchandise, your packaging, your mascot, your slogan, etc. Everything that you use to market your business and distinguish it from your competitor may fall under the trademark ambit.

Trademark protection can be obtained by registering specific marks with the PTO. Unfortunately, federal law requires the PTO only to register trademarks for “lawful” uses. Cannabis remains unlawful at the federal level, and though that may change soon, for the moment that means cannabis enterprises cannot obtain federal trademark protection for cannabis-related products and businesses.

Thankfully, California offers state-level trademark protection for businesses within the state. A cannabis intellectual property lawyer can help you define your marks and maximize their protection through registration with the relevant state and, eventually, federal agencies.

Trademarks are special among IP because they can be extended indefinitely. There’s no outside time limit for trademark protection. However, trademarks must be actively used and periodically renewed to be kept alive. If you stopped using a given mark years ago, then the protections will expire. Consult a cannabis IP lawyer to ensure you keep your trademarks alive. 

Register Your Copyrights

Copyright protection covers original works of art, including speeches, poems, books, songs, maps, films, technical drawings, and computer programs. Unlike trademarks, copyright protection begins from the moment a work of art is reduced to a tangible form–a writing, a recording, a picture, etc.

Although copyright protection technically exists once the work is created, actually enforcing copyright protection can be more challenging if the copyright is not known. Copyright holders can and should register their IP in order to pre-empt competitor usage and give them a leg-up in copyright enforcement actions.

Unlike trademarks, the federal government has no problem registering and protecting cannabis-related copyrights. Moreover, there’s a lot of overlap between trademark and copyrighted materials. A savvy cannabis IP lawyer can help you maximize your business’s marketing and other protected works.

Patent Your Inventions

The PTO is also willing to accept patent registration for cannabis-related inventions. Patents confer exclusive ownership rights over new inventions, including those relating to design or aesthetics, organic plant designs, and products designed for practical use (such as computer software, mechanical devices, and pharmaceuticals). If you wish to protect a new strain you’ve developed, a new type of pipe or other smoking apparatus, or a process for refining cannabis into a different form, you can do so.

Patents last for a set number of years, during which time anyone who wishes to use your IP must get your approval and pay a licensing fee. Anyone who uses your process, plant, or other invention without your permission is subject to a patent prosecution lawsuit. Ask your cannabis IP lawyer for help registering and protecting your patents.

Call a Dedicated California Cannabis IP Lawyer for Help With Your Marijuana Business

If you are considering an investment in a cannabis business in California, or if you are dealing with intellectual property, regulatory, licensing, or other legal issues with your hemp, CBD, or cannabis business in Los Angeles or Southern California, call McReynolds Vardanyan, LLP, in Glendale at 818-855-2115. Our California cannabis business lawyers will work with you to get your budding business off the ground efficiently, effectively, and legally.

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