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Brand Building In The Cannabis Industry

The North American cannabis market – while still in its early days – has changed a lot in the past few years. Canada legalised recreational use of the drug in 2018 and to date 16 US states have fully legalised marijuana use (36 allow it for medical purposes). The shifting legal and regulatory framework has had an impact on businesses’ trademark strategies in both countries, with brand owners having to act quickly and think ahead to ensure that their rights are protected.


The Cannabis Act was implemented in Canada in October 2018. Marijuana businesses jumped at the opportunity to be able to protect their brands, resulting in a surge of cannabis-related trademark applications in 2018 and 2019 (see Figure 1). Graham Hood, partner at Smart & Biggar, described it as a “green rush”, but activity has subsided somewhat since.

There are a number of reasons for this drop in volume, says Hood. It could be that companies have already secured protection for their core brands or it could have something to do with the uptick in M&A, which has seen major players snap up smaller entities. The pandemic has also played a role, forcing companies to rethink their product offerings and how to bring these to market.

The downward trend in application levels also has to do with a shift in business strategy. “Going into 2020, even before the covid-19 pandemic, I saw my cannabis clients scale back on legal and operational spend in order to stay profitable,” reports Gowling partner Natalie Rizkalla-Kamel. [Read More @ World Trademark Review]


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