The Canadian children's media company Nelvana has filed a lawsuit against an Oklahoma medical marijuana dispensary chain for copyright infringement.
Nelvana claims that the Treehouse Dispensary in Tulsa, OK has "willfully copied and is using a confusing similar imitation" of the logo used by child-oriented Treehouse TV channel. Nelvana has been using the logo since the late 1990s in Canada and it was officially registered with the USPatent and Trademark Office back in 2007.
Nelvana claims that the Treehouse Dispensary had committed to stop using the infringing logo prior to the lawsuit, but the company never followed through on that promise (though they did appear to have a new logo commissioned last May).
The Canadian media company is now seeking reimbursement for damages caused by the "hijacking of a children's brand to sell cannabis products," which they claim has hurt their reputation in the state.
"Plaintiff has received complaints from parents and teachers in Oklahoma who are concerned that Plaintiff is selling cannabis or otherwise affiliated with Defendant," reads Nelvana's lawsuit. "Plaintiff has suffered, and will continue to suffer, irreparable harm from Defendant's dilution of the Treehouse Marks unless restrained by law."
Nelvana is also requesting that any Treehouse Dispensary's cannabis products that violate their trademark be seized and destroyed.
In response, Treehouse Dispensary's lawyer Ron Durbin has released a statement that the cannabis retailer "categorically denies that its logo infringes on any existing trademarks in the United States" and that they are prepared to "vigorously defend" their business in court.
The cannabis industry has a long history of referencing pop culture in their product offerings - from strains named after characters from 'Star Wars,' to an Alberta-based retailer naming itself 'Starbuds.' However, those sorts of names might not be around much longer. As cannabis legalization spreads, copyright and trademark owners have greater power to prosecute cannabis retailers who may be infringing on those properties.
We've already seen one copyright issue arise between a hockey team and a rap icon. Back in 2016, the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs filed a lawsuit against Snoop Dogg that claimed the rapper's 'Leafs by Snoop' infringed on the hockey club's logo and brand. That case appears to be ongoing. so if Treehouse Dispensaries is serious about not backing down, Nelvana could be facing a long legal battle with the marijuana retailer.