12 December 2019TrademarksRory O'Neill

EU General Court bars ‘marijuana’ TMs

The EU General Court has ruled today, December 12 that EU trademarks containing the term ‘marijuana’ cannot be registered because they are “contrary to public policy”.

In the judgment, the court said that tackling the spread of marijuana, the psychoactive dried leaf substance derived from the cannabis plants, meets a “meets a public health objective” in many EU member states.

The court ruled that permitting registration of EU ‘marijuana’ trademarks would implicitly encourage “the purchase of such goods and services or, at the very least, trivialise their consumption”.

The decision arose out of an appeal brought by an Italian applicant, Santa Conte, who sought to register a logo for ‘Cannabis Store Amsterdam’ against a black background with green cannabis leaves.

Conte sought to register the mark in classes 30, 32, and 43, covering food and drink services, baked and confectionery goods, soft drinks and beer.

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) rejected the mark on the grounds that it was contrary to public policy.

Conte appealed the decision to the EU General Court, which has today held that the public was likely to perceive the mark as referring to food and drink products containing a narcotic substance.

The EUIPO, and subsequently the court, concluded that the public was likely to draw a link between the ‘Amsterdam’ term in the market and the ‘coffee-shop’ establishments in the Dutch city selling cannabis.

Conte had argued that the mark was simply referring to the origin of the cannabis used in her food and drink products.

She also contended that the EUIPO was wrong to conclude that her mark referred to a narcotic substance.

According to Conte, ‘cannabis’ in her trademark referred to an everyday word for the hemp plant.

The court rejected this argument, on the grounds that the relevant public in the EU was likely to perceive the term as referring to an illegal narcotic.

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