canada marijuana trademark

With Canada’s new trademark law set to take effect on June 17, 2019, U.S. cannabis companies should be considering whether it makes sense for them to file for trademark protection in Canada.

Most significantly for foreign applicants, a Declaration of Use will no longer be required, meaning that you do not need to actually use your mark in Canada in order to qualify for trademark protection. This is in contrast to the United States, where trademark registration requires proof of lawful use in commerce. The upside to this regulatory shift is that U.S. companies can get a jump on procuring Canadian trademark protection prior to entering the Canadian market. But the inevitable downside is that trademark trolls will now have an open door to “squat” on trademarks that are used by companies in other countries. These trolls often aim to force companies into negotiations for use of trademark rights to their own brand. Filing for protection in Canada will be an important tool for U.S. cannabis companies to avoid such a scenario.

Furthermore, cannabis goods can be specified in any Canadian trademark application. “The following terms are, at this time acceptable by the Office: ‘dried cannabis’ or ‘dried marijuana,’ ‘live cannabis plants,’ ‘medicinal marijuana for temporary relief of seizures,’ ‘medicinal marijuana for temporary relief of nerve pain.’” “Cannabis oil,” however, is not acceptable. It is important that the language used in your specification comports with the Canadian Goods and Services Manual.

Another notable change to Canada’s trademark law is that a range of non-traditional types of marks will now be registrable, including scents and tastes, holograms, moving images and textures.

Remember, though, that even though it is relatively straightforward to obtain a trademark for cannabis goods or services in Canada, there are many restrictions placed on how those cannabis trademarks can be used via the cannabis regulatory framework. For example, cannabis trademarks may not be used to promote cannabis goods:

  • In a manner that appeals to children;
  • By means of a testimonial or endorsement;
  • By depicting a person, character or animal, whether real or fictional;
  • By presenting the product or brand elements in a manner that evokes a positive or negative emotion about or image of, a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk, or daring;
  • By using information that is false, misleading or deceptive, or that is likely to create an erroneous impression about the product’s characteristics, value, quantity, composition, strength, concentration, potency, purity, quality, merit, safety, health effects or health risks;
  • By using or displaying a brand element or names of persons authorized to produce, sell or distribute cannabis in connection with the sponsorship of a person, entity, event, activity or facility, or on a facility used for sports, or a cultural event or activity; and
  • By communicating information about price and distribution (except at point of sale).

Because of the removal of the Declaration of Use requirement in particular, we strongly urge all of our cannabis clients to consider applying for trademark protection in Canada. If you fail to do so, someone else may beat you to it, preventing you from obtaining any right to use your brand in the Canadian market.

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Photo of Alison Malsbury Alison Malsbury

Alison primarily focuses on corporate and intellectual property transactions, working primarily with Harris Bricken’s cannabis, tech and entertainment clients. She has assisted clients with contracts, company formation, intellectual property protection, and regulatory compliance, and enjoys working with creative entrepreneurs at all stages of…

Alison primarily focuses on corporate and intellectual property transactions, working primarily with Harris Bricken’s cannabis, tech and entertainment clients. She has assisted clients with contracts, company formation, intellectual property protection, and regulatory compliance, and enjoys working with creative entrepreneurs at all stages of business development. Alison has a strong and growing practice representing celebrities on their cannabis endorsement deals and helping cosmetic and skin care companies navigate the complicated laws involving CBD.

Before joining Harris Bricken, Alison worked with the in-house legal team of one of the largest software companies in the world on their trademark and technology licensing issues.

Alison teaches Cannabis Law and Policy at Santa Clara University School of Law, where she graduated cum laude and was the technical editor for the Santa Clara Journal of International Law. During her time, she also received multiple awards in intellectual property, including the High Tech Excellence Award and the Witkin Award for Academic Excellence in Patents.

A Seattle native, Alison enjoys cycling, skiing, surfing, and just about any outdoor endeavor. She can often be found spending time with her rescued cat, Floyd, and her dog, Wiley.