Ganja Babie, other trademarks in the pipeline
More than a dozen applications to register ganja or marijuana trademarks are before the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), but the status of most is still pending.
There are two herbal teas, two ganja cafés, a number of festival trademarks and clothing lines, including a Ganja Babie, in JIPO's database.
Trademarks represent the physical brand or logo associated with a business entity. And companies tend to be protective of their names - for example, one of the trademark applications in Jamaica was dropped after social media company Instagram LLC objected.
So far, the successful registrations of 17 for 'ganja and marijuana' include: Caribbean Dreams High Grade Ganja Tea owned by Jamaican Teas Limited since August 2016; Ganja Cup and Medical Ganja Cup, registered in March 2016 by Trans High Corporation; and 16Ganja owned by Prime Sports Jamaica as a lottery symbol for its games registered June 2016.
"We registered a name in anticipation of being able to get into ganja tea," said Jamaican Teas CEO John Mahfood, while indicating the rollout of the product was still subject to Government's legislative agenda.
"We understand that there is still a lot to be done in terms of regulation," he said, noting it as a precursor to the development of products "in a form that people can consume". For instance, the potency level would require legal standards, he reasoned.
CAUTIOUS ON MARKETING
"We have to wait for the regulations to come to go forward. We are cautious, because even if it becomes legal to sell in Jamaica, there's nowhere to sell outside of Jamaica for now," said Mahfood, whose company manufactures Tetley teas locally and operates one of the largest tea distributors within Jamaica and the Caribbean.
"You can't sell to the Caribbean or to US, as the federal government says it's illegal to import and transport it," Mahfood said. "It will be a limited market, but we want to be prepared."
Of the 17 applications in the JIPO database, four are registered, three were withdrawn and 10 are pending.
"Pending means just going through the process. Based on the volumes of general trademarks until examination. It is nothing unusual," said JIPO deputy director and legal counsel, Marcus Goffe, on Tuesday.
Goffe says the number of applications amounts to much more than 17 when the word 'cannabis' is included in the search.
Under the ganja searches, Wallace Melbourne has applied to register Ganja Babie, Dr Henry Lowe-controlled Medicanja has applied for Ganja Café, while Jamaica Ganja Corporation, led by Balram Vaswani, applied for around five trademarks - all of which are pending.
Vaswani told Gleaner Business that he awaits word from the Cannabis Licensing Authority, and would not comment on his trademark applications until then.
"The filings are done and the checks and balances are done," Vaswani said.
The withdrawn applications include Varun Baker's attempt to register 'Ganjagram', which was challenged in November 2015 by the legal firm Myers Fletcher Gordon on behalf of Instagram LLC. That trademark request was withdrawn last April.
Separately, there is an attempt to withdraw JGR Jah Ganja & Reggae Limited. The owners Dwight Andre Doyley and Barry Robert Gainsburg planned to use the name as their trademark for an internet music store, according to JIPO public documents. Gainsburg, however, walked into JIPO and requested that the trademark request be withdrawn on June 23, 2016.
JIPO records also show that, prior to that, on June 6, 2016, Gainsburg applied to trademark ‘Jah Ganja & Reggae Limited’ as sole owner. Approval for that application is pending.
Ganja Technologies Jamaica was withdrawn in May 2015 after filing in 2014. The name of the applicant was not immediately ascertained.
Goffe explained that registration entitles the trademark holder to protection within Jamaica but not necessarily the globe, for now. He advised businesses to file in Jamaica as well as with countries in which they wish to operate.
"The jurisdiction of JIPO and the Jamaica Trademarks Act is really for this jurisdiction. But we are moving to accession to the Madrid Protocol. Once that takes place, persons will be able to file their trademarks at JIPO and select, for a fee, which countries they would like their trademarks registered within," Goffe said.
There is an ongoing move to amendment of law without a definite timeline for accession to the Madrid Protocol.
Some two years ago, JIPO encouraged the players in the decriminalised ganja industry to work together and apply for geographic indication, or GI, status. It was aimed at providing greater global protection by linking the plant to its geographical origin.
Ganja, as a GI, would help guard against foreign products using the descriptions 'Jamaican-style', 'Jamaican-kind', and 'Jamaica-type'.
Jamaica's first GI was 'jerk'. In 2008, JIPO launched a GI capacity-building project with the Swiss Federal Intellectual Property Institute to develop GIs with the coffee, rum and jerk industries.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to indicate that Barry Gainsburg had made another trademark application in his name alone.