Pubdate: Thu, 22 Jul 2010
Source: Marin Independent Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Marin Independent Journal
Author: Richard Halstead


Marin County's doyen of medical marijuana, Lynette Shaw, said she was
pleased when she read recently on the Web that the U.S. Patent and
Trademark Office had created a new trademark category for medical marijuana.

But the patent office backpedaled last week and eliminated the
category, which was established April 1, after an inquiry by the Wall
Street Journal.

Shaw, founding director of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in
Fairfax, said the patent office got it right the first time, "because
a lot of our medical growers have worked very hard to develop strains
that are absolutely reliable for the specific type of illness they
were developing the strain for."

For example, she said, some strains are more effective for treating
depression while others are better for suppressing nausea.

"We're very proud of this," Shaw said, "and eventually I'd like to be
able to offer this type of guaranteed reaction to patients."

Shaw said her attempts to secure trademarks from the patent office in
the late 1990s were summarily rejected. The patent office backtracked
on the medical marijuana category because selling pot for any purpose
remains a federal crime, even though it is allowed in some states such
as California and Colorado.

The patent office is, however, continuing to accept pot-trademark
applications. A perusal of the names applied for is like a trip down
memory lane to the land of Cheech and Chong, the Fabulous Furry Freak
Brothers and High Times magazine.

The list of more than 270 applications includes golden oldie marijuana
strains such as Maui Waui, Acapulco Gold and Panama Red and newer but
well known strains such as Chronic, Albino Rhino and Purple Haze.

Vivian Kaufman, who operates the Marin Wellness Center, a medical
marijuana dispensary in Mill Valley, said she was unaware that the
patent office was accepting trademark requests. Kaufman said, however,
that such names do influence the purchases of her regular customers.

"Those who have been users know what they need for their ailment,"
Kaufman said, "so they come in specifically asking for a strain."

She said the strains she sells, such as Purple Kush and Trainwreck,
are named by growers and often lack any medical connotation.

Steve DeAngelo, executive director of the Harborside Health Center
medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, said he has already
trademarked the name of his center, outside the marijuana category,
and is continuing to seek a second trademark of the name in the
medical marijuana category for added protection. He is also seeking a
trademark on his center's logo for use on clothing and other products.

DeAngelo doubts that anyone will ever succeed in trademarking a
marijuana strain.

"I don't think it is technically feasible to trademark a strain of
cannabis because as of now there is no objective, scientific method of
verifying that any particular patch of cannabis is a particular
strain," DeAngelo said.

DeAngelo said Harborside Health Center conducts laboratory tests on
the pot it sells and has found big differences between batches of the
same strain. For example, when Harborside tested two batches of Grand
Daddy Purple, it discovered that one batch had a 6 percent THC content
while the other had 22 percent.

DeAngelo said a well-trained marijuana purchasing agent should be able
to identify most of the commonly known strains of cannabis by
examining it with a microscope, touching it and smelling it. But
purchasing agents never smoke the pot they're buying to verify its
strain, he said.

"After the first test, your judgment would be so warped any subsequent
tests would be useless," DeAngelo said.

The requests for trademarks filed with the patent office also stake
out a variety of pot-related goods and services with such names as:
the ganjacologist, ganja gourmet,, e-toke, planet of
the baked, hemp head the "higher" energy drink and weedipedia.

Several of the trademark requests contain the number "420," a code for
pot that according to Steven Hager, editor of High Times, had its
origin in Marin County.

Hager told the Associated Press in 2009 that the term originated with
a group of friends at San Rafael High School in 1971. The students
received a tip about an abandoned marijuana patch and began meeting at
4:20 p.m. to search for it. Long after they abandoned the search they
continued to meet at 4:20 p.m. near the campus statue of famed chemist
Louis Pasteur to smoke pot. 
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