A lot of people in pain in the Silver State are getting excited about Nevada’s move toward finalizing the regulations around medical marijuana for prescription dispensaries, but an unlikely boom in business may be for the average Las Vegas patent attorney, as this article in the Review-Journal points out. Describing the case in which “gaming giant MGM Resorts International is going to court against a pot company for trademark infringement,” Arnold Knightly for the Review-Journal intimates that new cannabis companies can expect to see increasing litigation as they set up their business across Nevada, if they’re not careful.
M Life Inc., a company “with an application to operate a dispensary in Las Vegas under the name M’Life Wellness” is under fire from MGM, because unfortunately for the plant-based medicine makers, their name bears too much similarity to MGM’s “M life” customer rewards program. MGM’s Las Vegas patent attorney sent the pot company a cease-and-desist letter, who according to MGM’s lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court, “did not agree to” comply. And even while neither party is commenting to the press about the lawsuit, some speculations are likely to be drawn from the facts as they are.
In the lawsuit, MGM “claims trademark dilution, unfair competition and cybersquatting in connection with the pot company’s name and website,” a standard trademark infringement claim according to Las Vegas lawyers like Scott Knight, familiar with patent law in the state. Where it gets tricky, though is in the trademark registration for a marijuana company, a Las Vegas patent attorney like Knight could tell you. Because even while M’Life brand has been registered as a business with Nevada since April, it “can’t be federally trademarked because marijuana cultivation, production and sales are still federal crimes even if legalized the state level.”
The weed business is still wacky across state lines, and even within state lines, as Washington and Colorado have discovered, being the only two states to legalize recreational marijuana. Several other states have legalized some form of marijuana for medical usage, but at the federal level, it’s still a big no-no, which means companies like M’Life are going to end up investing hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in navigating treacherous legal waters to find the safe harbor of the state laws. Needing a Las Vegas patent attorney to defend themselves against trademark violation claims is only one of the obstacles facing pot companies; the fact that banks won’t touch their money is another.
Right now, though, MGM isn’t happy with M’Life, not least because of the reputation of barely legal (and largely disreputable) weed has within the state. MGM is claiming that M’Life’s name “constitutes dilution by tarnishment” and has “created an association in the mind of the consuming product” between the MGM customer rewards and marijuana, “harming the gaming giant’s brand,” they say.
If it sounds like MGM is being overly careful, it’s probably because they are. The gaming industry in Nevada has been facing increasing pressure by state regulators to “separate any associations because of the conflict between state and federal law.” Casinos are used to toeing the line. Now dispensaries will have to get used to it, too.