Two companies providing data for the hemp industry are embroiled in a trademark dispute. New Leaf Data Services (“New Leaf”) sued PanXchange in federal court in Connecticut on the grounds that PanXchange’s offering under brands such as PANXCHANGE® HEMP BENCHMARKS violated New Leaf’s supplemental trademark registration, HEMP BENCHMARKS (Reg. No. 5079914). The case was eventually transferred to Colorado.
In response to New Leaf’s complaint, PanXchange stated that the HEMP BENCHMARKS brand is generic. PanXchange found that Merriam-Webster defines “benchmarks” as “something that serves as a standard by which others can be measured or judged”. As a result, PanXchange claims that “the phrase” hemp benchmarks “does not distinguish New Leaf’s services.” As a result, PanXchange is asking the court to cancel New Leaf’s registration.
The use of the term “capable” is important as ancillary registration only requires that a trademark can distinguish an applicant’s goods or services. It is not necessary that the mark actually distinguish those goods or services.
At its core, this case is about branding basics, with the hemp connection being largely random. Still, the stake could have implications for other companies in the hemp and cannabis sector.
If the court agrees with PanXchange and finds that “hemp benchmarks” are a generic term, it could lead companies to new brands for brands that follow the same basic formula (such as CANNABIS BENCHMARKS, for which New Leaf also has a supplement) Setting standards registration). In contrast, if the court upholds New Leaf’s claim, we could see an increase in filings for such trademarks.
What do you think? Should “hemp benchmarks” be viewed as a generic term like “oranges” or “computers”? Give us your thoughts in the comments. And if you’re a new or growing cannabis company, think seriously about your branding. Federal issues aside, a generic or descriptive name is always difficult to protect and can be a headache for your cannabis business.