Largely thanks to ongoing marijuana legalization paired with the COVID-19 pandemic, the sales of edibles have skyrocketed to new heights. We have edibles in the form of cookies, crackers, and even candy, which has corporate candy manufacturers furious at various cannabis companies.
The Cannabis News Story of the Week
According to some mainstream candy companies, the marijuana industry is ripping off its products in order to sell. Candy companies claim this marketing technique tarnishes the brands they worked so hard to establish. The Wrigley Company, which makes Mars, Snickers, and Orbit gum, filed a lawsuit in May “against five companies for selling cannabis-infused edibles that look like our old friends Skittles, Starburst, and Life Savers.”
A Very Obvious Copyright Complication
Take a look at this article. You very clearly see side-by-side comparisons of the original Skittles brand (left) and the cannabis-infused knock-off product to the right. They look almost identical! The Wrigley Company, as well as parents of young children, have every right to be concerned and upset. What if a child mistakes actual Skittles for the marijuana version? Also, isn’t there some kind of copyright law that prevents marijuana companies from using the Skittles name? Sounds illegal to us.
Making matters even more confusing, certain cannabis companies sell a strain of flower named after the iconic candy. The strain Zkittlez, also known as Skittles and Skittlz, smells of grape and grapefruit with THC levels around 19%. It’s unlikely that the Wrigley Company can sue over this due to the different spelling, but it might just be similar enough for a child to get confused and buy the wrong product.
The Wrigley Company vs. Cannabis Companies
But—you better believe Wrigley is going to try! According to the Chicago SunTimes, “A lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Chicago names a California company called Terphogz, which has allegedly used the name “Zkittlez” to sell cannabis and CBD flower, as well as clothing and drug paraphernalia. Terphogz ‘helped itself’ to Wrigley’s trademarks for Skittles by ‘knocking off’ the famous “Taste the Rainbow” slogan and copying the company’s logo, among other things.”
A second lawsuit filed Monday in Southern California goes after a group of online marijuana retailers who sell products named after candy companies. The obvious knock-offs include names such as “Medicated Skittles,” “Life Savers Medicated Gummies” and “Starburst Gummies.” In a statement, Wrigley said the two federal lawsuits and a third filed in Canada “are a testament to its commitment to stop the distribution of these harmful THC products.”
Protect Yourself Against a Lawsuit
What makes these cannabis companies think they can get away with such a thing? Using a trademarked name is one of the biggest no-nos in marketing, advertising, and sales. According to Food & Wine magazine, the answer is simply that old habits die hard. “Five or ten years ago when cannabis was starting to take off, it was a joke to have something like Cap’n Punch, a cereal that’s infused,” says Henry Wykowski, a lawyer who teaches cannabis law. “But the industry has matured, and the people who know what they’re doing no longer engage in that kind of conduct.”
What started as a “joke” has clearly taken a serious turn for candy and cannabis companies alike. No longer are smaller brands allowed to ride the coattails of big dogs like Wrigley to get their foot in the door. Surely, there have got to be better and less illegal ways to market candy-like cannabis products without using the actual name of Skittles or Mars. To all the mom-and-pop cannabis companies out there, be cautious of this news story! The last thing you want is a lawsuit on your doorstep.