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Vices and Virtues: Beware the differences around the world

Jul 23, 2020

Image: Sepideh K. Nassabi - Litigator and Registered Trademark AgentThe Canadian Intellectual Property Office provides a helpful reminder on its website as follows: “Canada is the first G7 country to legalize recreational use of marijuana and businesses should be aware that other countries may not allow the same IP protections for the cannabis industry.” The red, bolded “Caution” sign will catch your attention, but this might also make you wonder: what about other goods and services? How might their varying legal statuses affect IP protection in different jurisdictions? Let’s discuss this below.

Cannabis

In Canada, thanks to full legalization, businesses are free to apply to trademark goods and services related to cannabis use. After amendments to the Trademarks Act came into force in June 2019, scents and tastes can now be trademarked as well.

In the US, however, CBD ingredients used as food additives and dietary supplements are still considered unlawful under the Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act. However, other hemp-based products with less than 0.3% THC or CBD are no longer considered to be controlled substances and can be trademarked.

On the very opposite end of the legalization spectrum, cannabis is still an illegal narcotic drug under the law in China. It’s safe to say that cannabis trademark applications will not be accepted by Chinese authorities any time soon.

Bitcoin

Laws and regulations about Bitcoin and related cryptocurrency instruments can vary greatly. As of February 2020, Bitcoin is legal in the US, Japan, the UK, Canada, and most other developed countries. In China, it is not a criminal offence to hold Bitcoin, but there are heavy restrictions around the trading of and access to Bitcoin. India banned banks from dealing in Bitcoins and left the overall legal status of cryptocurrencies unclear. If you are thinking about trademarking a cryptocurrency product or service in a particular jurisdiction, it is important not only to find out about its legal status but also to understand the applicable laws and regulations. These regulatory schemes continue to change and update as the law plays catch-up to technology, even in jurisdictions where cryptocurrency is considered legal.

Alcohol

Although its consumption is often regulated by law, alcohol is legal in most countries around the world. However, the total prohibition of alcohol is still enforced in several Muslim-majority countries, for example, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Iran. Since Muslim teachings are the main reason for its prohibition, some Muslim-majority states and communities in India and Pakistan also enforce alcohol prohibition, even though these two countries don’t have a sweeping alcohol ban. If you are interested in applying for trademarks of alcoholic beverages in India or Pakistan, you should look into both local and national legislation.

Why is this important to you?

Before applying for trademarks in a different country, take the time to do your research. It’s better to be prepared and aware of the specific struggles that you may face depending on the regulations of a country.

Are you looking to apply for trademarks in a specific jurisdiction? Contact Registered Trademark Agent and Litigation Lawyer Sepideh Nassabi at snassabi@mindengross.com.

Thank you to Carol Liu, summer student, for her help in creating this post.