Don’t Put Borat on Your Billboards – And More I.P. Advice for Cannabis Companies

Harris Beach PLLC
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Why would a small cannabis dispensary choose to plaster the fictional character Borat on its billboard – without asking permission? This misjudgment resulted in a $9 million lawsuit; but it’s not an isolated incident. In fact, theft of others’ intellectual property is a recurring problem for the fledgling cannabis industry. Part of the issue may be growing pains, as cannabis emerges from an under-the-radar black market commodity, rebelling against the status quo, into the light of legalization.

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Why would a small cannabis dispensary choose to plaster the fictional character Borat on its billboard – without asking permission? This misjudgment resulted in a $9 million lawsuit; but it’s not an isolated incident. In fact, theft of others’ intellectual property is a recurring problem for the fledgling cannabis industry. Part of the issue may be growing pains, as cannabis emerges from an under-the-radar black market commodity, rebelling against the status quo, into the light of legalization.

As this case shows, industries that are legal need to think about compliance instead of defiance. Brendan Palfreyman, a partner on Harris Beach’s Cannabis Industry Team and Intellectual Property practice, explains how the Borat lawsuit is a bellwether of large companies more aggressively protecting against theft, infringement and appropriation by cannabis start-ups. He shares examples related to Skittles and the cult comedy “Office Space,” draws parallels to the craft beer industry, and discusses how companies easing into cannabis can find ways to protect their IP before the floodgates open with more legalization.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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