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New Legal Cannabis Brand May Not Launch as Planned at Woodstock 50


June 10, 2019 ( Newswire) If you know anything about pop culture history, then you've surely heard about the original Woodstock Music Festival that took place in 1969. The planning of this year's festival has gotten off to rocky start with investors pulling out and investment bank Oppenheimer & Co. taking the reins to find new investors to fill empty spaces. But that's not all the co-founder of Woodstock, Michael Lang has to worry about.

As Lang prepares for Woodstock 50 - a 50-year-anniversary celebration of the iconic event taking place in August of this year, his focus is not only on ticket sales and sponsors. Lang also has plans to launch a new legal cannabis Woodstock brand in a partnership with MedMen. Unfortunately, the Woodstock brand is embroiled in a federal trademark infringement lawsuit, and federal Judge Colleen McMahon has blocked Woodstock Ventures, LLC, which owns the Woodstock trademark, from completing its licensing agreement.

The problem stems from the actions of a company called Woodstock Roots - a company that also wants to launch its own cannabis brand. According to the lawsuit filed by Woodstock Ventures, LLC, in February 2018, Woodstock Roots adopted the Woodstock trademark to brand its cannabis-related inventory and has also falsely associated its brand with the Woodstock music festival by using a logo that includes a marijuana leaf and the phrase "since 1969," even though the company was established recently.

Trademark conflicts aren't only based on using a mark that's identical to a competitor's mark. They also can be initiated if the mark in question is likely to cause confusion among consumers. For example, if there's a chance that consumers will associate the products of brands that are meant to separate as being related, that is considered a trademark conflict.

In response to Woodstock Roots' actions, Woodstock Ventures filed a suit based on federal trademark infringement. Since the original Woodstock festival in 1969, Woodstock Ventures has continued to produce the branded music festival and has a wide range of products it promotes under the Woodstock trademark, including record albums, clothing and movies. And all of those products have federal trademark registrations. Even though cannabis cannot gain a federal trademark registration because the product is still illegal at the federal level, Woodstock Ventures argues in its lawsuit that the Woodstock brand is strongly associated with recreational marijuana, which the company now sells in states such as California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

In essence, Woodstock Ventures is arguing that it is entitled to a federal injunction and monetary damages due to Woodstock Roots' attempt to gain from using the Woodstock trademark.

Unfortunately, as a result of the federal trademark infringement lawsuit that Woodstock Ventures filed, Woodstock Roots counter-sued. In response, Judge McMahon issued a temporary restraining order that keeps both companies from moving forward with their plans to launch their respective cannabis brands until the case is sorted out. Woodstock Roots could resolve the dispute by rebranding, but so far it hasn't. The company's website is still up and running.

Meanwhile Lang's attorneys are clamoring for a resolution, going so far as to request that the judge make a decision so they can promote the Woodstock cannabis brand as evidenced by this excerpt from a March 25th letter from Michael Lang's attorney, Shawn Regan to Judge Macmahon in which Regan claims that Lang and Woodstock Ventures, LLC are "deeply within the marketing window for their upcoming 50th Anniversary Music Festival this summer, a once- in-a-lifetime event providing irreplaceable event-driven benefits to Plaintiffs' Woodstock branded-products, including cannabis, through 'tens of millions of dollars of free publicity' and massive media coverage generating billions of social media impressions."

"Moreover, these events are occurring within a window of burgeoning commercial opportunity in the legal cannabis industry, already a $10 billion market and expected to triple in short order ... where licensors forced to remain on the sidelines, as Plaintiffs are currently, will later face a barrier to entry not suffered by those immediately able to move into the market," Regan wrote.

Because this case is considered a federally registered trademark infringement, as opposed to an unregistered trademark infringement, Woodstock Ventures is afforded more protections and rights and has a better chance of prevailing in the lawsuit. However, the final outcome remains to be seen.

The way to avoid these type of conflicts is for people to conduct a search with the United States Patent and Trademark Office trademark database, which can help trademark seekers sidestep the likelihood of confusion.

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