The legal weed business hasn’t been helping the tobacco industry much, and there’s little love lost between the two. One is an entrenched business that saw its fortunes tumble in the twilight of the 20th century, and one is likely the future of smoking for recreation and for health. So it’s not exactly surprising to hear a cigarette brand suing a cannabis brand for something, but perhaps it’s a little odd that the lawsuit is for supposedly copying their logo.
This is hardly the first time a cannabis company has allegedly infringed on copyright. The longstanding illegality of weed has created a culture that doesn’t fear appropriation of corporate images. In fact, in tagging culture, for those urban artists who use spray paint to decorate buildings and train cars, appropriation of logos is a comfortable part of their artistic endeavors. How many times have you seen the Adidas logo turned into a weed leaf, for instance?
After lawyers went after Star Wars themed cannabis strain names, more awareness was brought to intellectual property issues in the industry. One prominent cannabis law firm even posted a handy how-to when it comes to naming strains and avoiding legal notices from trademark holders.
But that didn’t stop the lawsuit from ITG, the company that owns the Kool Cigarettes brand, from suing Los Angeles company Capna Intellectual, which sells under the name Bloom Brands. It’s the Bloom brand itself that’s causing an issue, according to legal documents filed. While there have been lawsuits over names before, there have been fewer over the look and design of a logo. These can be subjective, after all — and a plaintiff has to prove there would be consumer confusion.
Since Kools and cannabis are both smoked, perhaps the issue is that consumers will think ITG is now making “marijuana cigarettes” instead of the tobacco ones. Logically, a company has to protect its copyrights and trademarks, or it can lose them. In the U.S., the law is clear on trademarks especially, which has caused some companies to aggressively litigate name usage from others who aren’t even in the same ball park. About a decade ago, Monster Cable wound up suing anyone with the word “monster” in their name, and was roundly criticized for picking on small businesses. ITG has deeper pockets, presumably, and no fear of going up against a cannabis company.
With ITG and Bloom, the O’s in the logo interlock, similar to the Kools brand of cigarettes. For ITG, they claim this would cause confusion and is infringement. They likely have a good case, too. The maker of Nerds candy sued a Cali edible maker in 2020 after its candy was confused with edibles — something the candy maker has worked to distance itself from for a while now.
It’s likely that we’ll keep seeing these lawsuits, at least until cannabis companies grow big enough and weed is legal across the land. By then, cannabis companies may be buying up old tobacco companies and repurposing those brands for weed instead of tobacco.