I am speaking today on “Intellectual Property Protection: An Overview of the Options” at a Marijuana and Intellectual Property seminar. My talk will be on how to employ “copyrights, trademarks, trade dress, trade secrets, and patents” in the marijuana industry. In preparing for my talk, I am once again reminded of how critical it is for marijuana businesses to use their branding to protect themselves from the increased competition to come.

Federal illegality, the dearth of supra-regional expansion possibilities, federal financial compliance regulations, and reputational concerns all conspire to keep large numbers of prospective participants out of the cannabis industry. Most bigger companies will not go into marijuana until significant changes and assurances are in place. While those bigger companies are waiting for the tedious process of federalism to work everything out, smaller-scale operators have cover to develop and build their business models without having to compete with mega-companies.

Cannabis has no Wal-Marts or Anheuser-Busch Inbevs. That is a very good thing for small cannabis businesses looking to get big. For more on why this is the case, check out: The Death of Small Cannabis Has Been Greatly Exaggerated.

If you are a small marijuana business looking to get bigger, you need to build your brand so that when cannabis is fully legalized and companies like Wal-Mart or Anheuser-Busch become interested, you will have a head start. By creating strong and powerful branding,  securing trademarks with the help of a real trademark lawyer, and utilizing brand licensing to grow your business throughout the country, you will be positioning yourself to compete nationally both now and in the future. For an example of how to do this, check out what our client Mirth Provisions has done with their Cold Brew Coffee. Having an established marijuana brand name will help protect you from the big boys or maybe even make you one of their acquisition targets.

You should also be thinking about registering a state law trademark for the names of your strains, because as this article, Right brand name gives marijuana strain a higher value, points out, the right strain name can make all the difference in the world. Note however, that contrary to what some lawyers are claiming, the United States does not have regional trademarks, nor is it possible to register a strain name at the federal level. You should be registering your strain trademarks with the applicable state.

For more on the importance of building up and protecting your cannabis brand, check out the following: