From the Wall Street Journal:
Patent Office Raises High Hopes, Then Snuffs Them Out
For three months until last week, marijuana dealers had something they could only dream of before: the apparent stamp of approval of a federal agency.
On April 1, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office created a new trademark category: "Processed plant matter for medicinal purposes, namely medical marijuana." The patent office, part of the Department of Commerce, posted the new category on its website.
The patent-office change set off a land rush by pot dealers in the 14 states where laws permit medical-marijuana sales. Some staked claims on rights to long-used names like Maui Wowie and Chronic. Others applied to trademark business names such as Budtrader and Pot-N. Two companies applied to trademark psychoactive sodas named Keef Cola and Canna Cola.
"It looked like a positive step to me. We don't have many steps by the federal government legitimizing medical cannabis," said Steve DeAngelo, executive director of the Harborside Health Center medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif., who hired an intellectual-property lawyer to trademark his company name before the patent office created the new trademark category.
But last week the patent office snuffed out the promise of federal recognition. On Tuesday, after questions about the new pot-trademark category from a Wall Street Journal reporter, a patent-office spokesman said the office planned to remove the new pot classification by week's end, and the category is now off the website.
The spokesman, Peter Pappas, said the office's lawyers were "aware" of the category weeks ago. "It raises examination issues," Mr. Pappas said. "It was a mistake and we have removed it."
One key issue: Selling pot is a federal crime, even though some states have laws allowing it.
Mr. Pappas said the office will go back to its pre-April policy of accepting pot-trademark applications without providing a specific pot category. But that's back to square one: The office has never actually granted a pot trademark, the spokesman said, adding it's "highly unlikely" that it would do so in the future....MORE