Providing services in the field of intellectual property law means that we are no strangers to the witnessing the emergence of new trends, ideas and even entirely new and often game-changing industry sectors cropping up almost overnight. In these new sectors, there are a familiar team of players: the innovators who are blazing the trail, the followers who are quick to see value or an opportunity and, those who adapt to changes in the market at a more leisurely pace.
There are advantages to being the front runners – those who create and launch the market-changing products that catch fire (most often with an increasingly difficult-to-impress audience) with the hope to benefit handsomely. If it catches fire.
It is a landscape characterized by unknowns. As a completely new industry begins, little can be known about the value of the products, the potential consumer response to them, the longevity of a healthy market for the product and what the long term benefits or effects of the product itself might be.
In these instances, there are clear benefits in closely watching the leaders in the industry as they begin to navigate these individual minefields. Those close on their heels stand to gain substantially from not only their success, but even more importantly, from their failures. The ability to see where a feature, approach or other element of the product is failing can allow competitors to quickly pivot their own offering provide the solution to the problem.
As the legislation providing for the legal use of the cannabis plant, either as a medicinal or recreational product, continues to develop in many countries, an interesting dichotomy emerges – because while it is indeed a “new” industry, and it is at the same time, a very old industry.
Before a company even begins to develop, create, brand or market a product in this freshly legalized environment, much can be known about the marketplace in which they do business already. There are strongly opposed and often entrenched beliefs around the use of the product for both medical and recreational purposes. It has its own language of names and phrases instantly recognizable to users and non-users alike. Battles around what will and will not be considered to be ‘generic’ is emerging in different regions. The specific eco-system in which it is hoped that a particular product might flourish will create additional concerns from the branding perspective. More popular terminology that might build instant recognition, may serve to diminish the desired overall image of the proposed product in a medical setting. In circumstances where there may exist a desire to use the Latin names associated with the particular strains, protected plant names may well be an issue. Newer, more economical brands attempting to ride on the coattails of their earlier to market, successful brethren is an inevitable phenomena. Typically, what divides older and newer brands is commercial success over a period of time. And if cannabis were being legalized at a similar pace around the world, you would expect to see a familiar pattern repeat itself.
However, this is not the case. Cannabis in its various forms and for a variety of purposes is being legalized in stages, one region at a time. In some regions, you can expect to see medical use long time before recreational use, if at all. In both the U.S. and Canada, legislation varies from state to state and territory to territory. Given that trademark registrations operate on a state, national or federal level, what you can and cannot successfully hope to register as a trademark in relation to a cannabis product is, well, complicated. This clears the way for even more problematic infringement issues internationally than might typically be seen.
Challenges with cannabis trademark registrations highlight the difficulties of ascertaining where the balance lies between commercial success on the one hand and protectable commercial success on the other in a much more critical way than with any other industry.
Keeping a close watch on the activities of the leaders in any new industry always provides critical information to those who would join that path but, in the case of the cannabis industry, up-to-date information on branding trends, cannabis trademark registrations and perhaps even more importantly, failed applications will support companies and expert law firms in guiding decisions that will minimize losses and maximize gains in a polarized potential marketplace.
Paying attention to business activities in an area where visibility is lacking – the trademark registrations themselves will lend significant insight and value. The use of a specially designed and robust search tool that focuses on ‘need-to-know’ information will quickly become the Gold Standard for this contentious, quick-moving and volatile marketplace. Hence, the Cannabis Industry Search.