In June, Leafly published an article on delta-8 THC products purchased at a smoke shop in Oxnard, CA. Two of the three products turned out to be brandless packages of supposed delta-8 products, with no indication of where they came from. The featured image included a bag of copycat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos infused with delta-8 THC.
Officials at Delta-8 Oils released a statement: ‘Please stop stealing our brand and our logo.’
When Sam Slosburg saw the photo, he was shocked.
Slosburg is the creative director of Delta 8 Oils in Camp Verde, AZ. He recognized a small sticker slapped onto the package of supposedly delta-8 THC-infused Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
It was his own company’s logo.
But the product wasn’t from Delta 8 Oils. In fact, the seed-to-sale producer doesn’t even make edibles. Nor does the company sell products outside Arizona.
Don’t buy pirated products
Three days after the article came out, Delta 8 Oils released a statement: “To Whom It May Concern: Please Stop Stealing Our Brand and Our Logo.”
“This is wrong on so many levels,” the statement read. “If you see a product for sale with our logo outside a licensed Arizona dispensary, it ain’t us.”
The sticker bearing the Delta 8 Oils logo was placed on several edibles being sold at the Southern California smoke shop 500 miles away.
What else was on the packs of chips and candies? Not a whole lot. There was no testing information, no information about the manufacturer, no product safety assurance whatsoever.
“Our license allows us to sell only in the state of Arizona, only to licensed (cannabis) dispensaries,” Slosburg said. “Everything we’re doing is to be the trusted delta-8 source.” About the fake Cheetos, Slosburg said: “Just like anything, you probably don’t want to put it in your body if you really don’t know where it came from.”
How can businesses protect their brands?
Delta 8 Oils is now pursuing state trademark protection, Slosburg said, but the company’s legal team has told him a federal trademark is likely not possible.
Federal trademark officials refuse to protect delta-8 products. That leaves legitimate companies with little recourse.
As Leafly has learned, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is now handling delta-8 products the same way it’s dealt with state-licensed cannabis for years. The USPTO prohibits businesses in these industries from trademarking their products.
Cannabis companies have gotten around this obstacle in the past, at least in part, by seeking brand protection for ancillary products like lighters or clothing. That’s about the best they can do currently, at least at the federal level, said Neil Juneja, a Seattle-based trademark attorney who specializes in cannabis law.
But it’s a tricky and far-from-foolproof process—one even the biggest names in cannabis still struggle with.
Popular brands are hit hard
Brand theft is nothing new in the industry. Cookies, the highly regarded California-based cannabis brand, is especially popular among logo thieves, who wrap cut-rate, untested, and potentially toxic products in counterfeit “Cookies” packaging and sell them on the illicit market.
Now, with the sudden popularity of delta-8 THC products, the logo thieves have invaded that space, too.
And as Delta 8 Oils company officials discovered, stopping the scammers isn’t easy. In fact, the federal government’s trademark policies are encouraging pirate manufacturers to cheat delta-8 consumers nationwide—and put the public’s health at risk.
Trademarks protect consumers more than companies
Cannabis can only be legally sold through state-licensed dispensaries where the drug is legal. Delta-8 THC products, on the other hand, can be sitting on the shelf of just about any store, with the exception of a few states that have moved to ban it. (For more about the complicated legal status of delta-8, see Leafly’s comprehensive delta-8 guide.)
“We have to look at the purpose of trademarks,” Juneja said. “The purpose is not to protect companies. It’s to protect consumers.”
“That’s what we really need to tell consumers: You know this brand, you know this trademark, and you know the quality of the product coming from us,” Juneja added.
“We just don’t have enough tools to enforce it in this gray market right now,” he said, referring to the cannabis space.
“It’s the consumer that hurts the most.”