LUXEMBOURG (CN) – An Italian store selling dog treats and coffee made with cannabis cannot trademark its marijuana leaf-filled logo, the European General Court ruled Thursday.
“That sign, the dominant element of which is the word ‘cannabis,’ will be perceived by the relevant English-speaking public as meaning ‘cannabis shop in Amsterdam’ and by the relevant non-English-speaking public as ‘cannabis in Amsterdam’, which, in both cases, coupled with the image of the cannabis leaves, the media symbol for marijuana, is a clear and unequivocal reference to the narcotic substance which is sold there,” the court said in its ruling.
Only products with extremely low levels of THC, the active intoxicating agent in marijuana, are available for sale at the 500 some Cannabis Store Amsterdam locations, which, contrary to the name, are all located in Italy.
The owners of Cannabis Store Amsterdam attempted to trademark their green and black logo with the European Union Intellectual Property Office in 2016. The office rejected the application on the grounds that the image was “contrary to public policy.”
Cannabis Store Amsterdam sells low-THC products, sometimes called cannabis light, through a loophole in an Italian law aimed at helping farmers. The 2016 Hemp Act permitted farmers to sell the fiber, which can be used in paper and textile manufacturing. The act banned the recreational sale of the parts of the plant used in drug making but omitted mention of the sale of cannabis flowers.
That allowed shops selling products made with cannabis flowers, which contain only 0.2 to 0.6% THC, to bloom on Italian shopping streets.
But since it isn’t actually allowed to sell full-strength marijuana, the Cannabis Store Amsterdam was told by the Luxembourg-based court that it is not allowed to trademark its branding.
“The fact that that sign will be perceived by the relevant public as an indication that the food and drink items referred to by the applicant in the trademark application, and the related services, contain narcotic substances which are illegal in many member states is sufficient to conclude that it is contrary to public policy,” the three-judge panel wrote.
Even the use of the word “Amsterdam” was a problem for the court. The Dutch capital is known for its tolerant laws towards soft drugs like marijuana.
“It is sufficient to note, first, that the applicant does not dispute that the city of Amsterdam is known for its ‘coffee shops’ which are authorized to sell marijuana and ‘space cakes’ and, second, that, according to the case law, a sign must be refused registration if at least one of its possible meanings characterizes the existence of an absolute ground for refusal,” the ruling states.
Cannabis Store Amsterdam can appeal the Thursday ruling but has not indicated if it will do so.