We regularly cover intellectual property disputes on the blog, and the Edible Arrangements v. Green Thumb Industries trademark infringement case is one we covered two years ago when filed. Since then, this case appears to have been moderately active, with the parties engaging in the usual discovery and related motion practice.
However, things did take a surprising turn when late last week, Edible Arrangements filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss the case without prejudice (or in the alternative, to amend its complaint) due to “[t]he fast-shifting economic and legal landscape” of cannabis. Dismissing a case without prejudice means Edible Arrangements could revive it at a later point in time.
Recap of Edible Arrangements’ trademark infringement allegations
Edible Arrangements writes that it pursued this case upon passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which of course paved the way for the CBD market to open. It was also interested in selling CBD products, so it began to develop and market them under their brand “Incredible Edibles.”
Edible Arrangements then became aware of Green Thumb’s own marijuana product line, the “Incredibles.” To be clear, the Incredibles included Delta-9 THC, which doesn’t derive from hemp and remains federally illegal. So, despite the fact that the underlying products were legally distinct under federal law, Edible Arrangements filed the lawsuit to protect its trademarks against Green Thumb (who cannot have federal trademark protections because its own products remain federally illegal).
Why Edible Arrangements seeks to voluntarily dismiss, for now
While some believe necessary change has been painfully slow to occur, Edible Arrangements believes that the change in regulatory and legal landscape relating to marijuana has changed “dramatically” and continued change could render any outcome of the lawsuit moot:
In short, the pattern that is emerging is that, while makers of cannabis products that are federally-legal do have protectible trademark rights, the question of whether makers of products that, though similar in other respects, involve federally-illegal cannabis are infringing on those protectible marks is less clear cut.
Specifically, Edible Arrangements makes the (valid) point that in some markets, the legal status of Incredible Edibles versus the illegal status of Incredibles (by Green Thumb) could make a significant difference in where they’re sold– regular stores versus dispensaries only. However, Green Thumb recently announced that it reached a deal with Circle K to sell its marijuana products for medical use in certain Florida gas stations (which is still awaiting regulatory approval). As big industry players continue to push an effort to normalize marijuana “by integrating it with regular consumer products,” one thing is clear: the joining marketing channels and resulting likelihood of confusion will likely grow and bolster trademark infringement claims between hemp and marijuana products:
“Thus, while the Court undoubtedly could adjudicate the question of the likelihood of confusion as it exists right now, and could even do so with an eye towards the ‘convergent marketing channels,’ such a determination may not be sufficient to address the future state of this rapidly changing market and could be mooted by any number of events. Thus, the better course is to set this case aside, without prejudice, and let the parties return—or not—once the market dynamics have more fully run their course.”
What’s next in this unusual trademark infringement case
We’ll continue to monitor the docket for any response from Green Thumb and, of course, any final order of the Court. But it does seem clear that other plaintiffs will likely follow suit and wait for a time when their trademark infringement claims are bolstered – such as if marijuana continues to seep into the general marketplace or is one day legalized altogether – and everyone seeks to establish their brands over all their competitors.