Hal Lewis, national sales director for Cannabis Sativa Inc., with Hi-brand cannabis balm and other products.
Brian van der Brug | Los Angeles Times/TNS
LOS ANGELES (TNS) — Hi is a cannabis brand. Its logo — “hi” in white letters inside an orange circle — can be found above the front door of a Portland, Oregon, marijuana shop and on a handful of cannabis products, including massage oil and Hi Releaf pain-relief balm.
But you wouldn’t guess any of that from Hi’s trademark filings. In 2015, the brand’s parent company, Cannabis Sativa Inc., filed a trademark application — not for any of Hi’s core products, but for hats, T-shirts and a wide array of other apparel.
If the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office signs off on the application, Cannabis Sativa would be able to stop other companies from using the Hi brand on clothing, but it might not be able to stop rivals from setting up Hi-brand marijuana shops or selling knockoff Hi-brand products.
This is the odd state of affairs for trademark protection in the cannabis industry, one of the many byproducts of the gap between state and federal marijuana laws.
Though cannabis is legal for recreational or medicinal use in 28 states, it remains illegal under federal law. As a result, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will not register trademarks for marijuana retailers or for products that contain cannabis.
“You want to protect what you’re doing with the brand name,” said David Tobias, president of publicly traded Cannabis Sativa, “but you have to dance around it.”
One popular strategy for cannabis companies that can’t trademark their core products is to seek protection for a host of ancillary products and services.
“I call it the ‘circle the wagons’ approach,”