CFN Media Interviews Brand Geek


Rachelle Gordon

August 9th, 2017

News


The cannabis industry is still in its infancy, meaning many brands and concepts are still being introduced. With the amount of people looking to get in while the getting’s good, there is a lot of competition, particularly with new ideas. This sort of intellectual property (IP) is important to protect, especially in a market where the growth is so rapid. Lara Pearson, a trademark attorney, founded brandGEEK in order to help ensure new businesses are able to develop concepts without the fear of someone profiting off of those ideas. CFN Media sat down with Pearson to understand why trademark law is important in the cannabis space, as well as her hopes for the industry as a whole.

Rachelle Gordon:  What is brandGEEK and what is it doing for the cannabis industry?

Lara Pearson:  My law firm is called the Law Office of Me, and/or BrandGEEK. I have been serving cannabis clients now for about five years. I am a trademark attorney and mostly work with other soulful, multiple-bottom-line businesses. So, companies that are measuring not just their profitability, but also their environmental and social impact; companies that care about their effect on their communities, on their people.

The largest client that I’ve had in the cannabis space so far actually had a ton of copyright work to protect a set of document templates for cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensaries, which they sell as templates but they also offer customization. Their primary business model is customization of those documents as a consulting firm. But we had to go and register the copyright in all those documents, after we figured out who the authors of each document were, and made sure the company actually owned the assets. It was a really big project that came out super-fun and challenging.

RG:  How does your firm tackle the state vs Feds debate?

LP:  I think the hope among everyone I know that’s in trademark law is that once the Feds deschedule cannabis, then you’ll be in line already at the U.S. patent and trade office either with craftily worded applications for goods/services that do in fact “touch the plant,” of for ancillary goods and services (like clothing, smoking accessories and other wellness services). You’ll already have registrations that are closely related to what you’re really doing with your brand (growing, manufacturing or selling cannabis product), or what you desire to do with your brand. And that way you’ll be what we call the ‘Prior’ or ‘Senior’ user and be able to prevent anyone else from using an identical or similar mark for the same or related goods and services. My practice is federal, so I work with clients in all states, as well as clients that are overseas that are wanting to get into this market, so we’ll see how that goes.

RG:  What would you like to see in the cannabis industry?

LP:  Something that hasn’t really been talked about in cannabis are the environmental and social aspects of this. I recently had the privilege of attending a luncheon with Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland. She said flat out that the drug incarcerations, especially for cannabis in the city have been disproportionately affecting people of color and underserved populations. Therefore, the way Oakland is going to roll out its permits for recreational dispensaries is this equity program where they’re trying to get the people who are most harmed by prohibition to be able to profit now in the new regulated economy. I just thought that was amazing. I wish she had spoken here. To share that and to see how can we,this community, can be more inclusive, isn’t that something?

RG:  What hopes do you have for cannabis law in the future?

LP:  Environmental law is a huge asset. Cannabis can be grown in a regenerative way for the land, and for communities. Or it can be done really poorly and be harmful to land and harmful to communities. So that’s one thing I would like to see continue to expand and hopefully to have some contribution to make. So that it’s not just a bunch of wealthy white people sitting around. That is what I am hoping to see, especially in Oakland where folks have been disproportionately affected. I believe that the program that they’ve set up so far is going to help remedy that.

We’ll see more discussions like that, and more discussion of things like how we make can this community be inclusive. How do we make sure we’re not harming the environment? What can we all do as a community to not just make a lot of money and kind of legitimize something that’s been in the closet, but how can we use it as a catalyst to make positive change in our communities and for the natural environment? That is what needs to be focused on while we grow our businesses. Then we all can thrive together.

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Rachelle Gordon

About Rachelle Gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a Minneapolis-based writer. She was the president of her college's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and worked in Amsterdam for a brief time. Find her online at www.rachellegordon.net.


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