A new decision of an appeal in a trademark dispute, initiated by the RAW Rolling Papers manufacturer, has widespread implications for the rolling paper industry that dismiss the claim that rolling papers are “drug paraphernalia.” It’s also good news for non-cannabis-touching companies that want to protect trademarks.

BBK, manufacturer of RAW rolling papers, announced on April 9 that it won an appeal in its trademark dispute with Delaware-based Central Coast Agriculture, Inc. (CCA) as the Court sided with the popular rolling paper brand on its counterclaim.

According to the lawsuit, CCA’s employment of the “RAW GARDEN” name for its cannabis products, was an infringement of BBK’s “RAW”  trademark. In the past, several other brands have allegedly attempted to rip off the likeness of the RAW trademark in one way or another. RAW GARDEN applied for a trademark at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), beginning in 2017 with subsequent applications.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued rulings in two decisions on April 1 that could reshape the landscape of trademark law within the cannabis industry: The district court dismissed BBK’s false advertising claim and ruled in favor of CCA on BBK’s trademark claims. But the district court also ruled in favor of BBK on its counterclaim to invalidate several of CCA’s trademark applications and on CCA’s counterclaim to cancel BBK’s trademark applications for unlawful use.

“BBK is very pleased with the outcome of this appeal. Setting a precedent for the rolling paper industry, the appeals court rejected the suggestion that rolling papers are ‘drug paraphernalia’ and reaffirmed the trial court’s decision that BBK’s RAW® rolling papers and other RAW® smoking products are not prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act,” a spokesman for BBK said in an April 9 press release.

“It is equally important that the appeals court confirmed the trial court correctly invalidated the trademark applications improperly filed by CCA,” the spokesman continued. “After years of pursuing efforts in and out of court to protect consumers from being confused and misled by CCA’s unauthorized use of the RAW® name for CCA’s cannabis products, BBK looks forward to a final resolution after a trial to a jury.”

RAW Black rolling papers were voted the best by the Daily High Club, as well as upvoted to the top in the comments on a Reddit thread, “What papers do y’all generally consider the best?”

Benzinga reports that the rulings could “reshape the landscape of trademark law within the cannabis industry.” Read the appeal ruling in its full text here.

The appellate court’s rulings sent BBK’s trademark infringement claim against CCA back to the district court for a full trial.

BBK representatives say the ruling protects consumers from confusion and misleading practices associated with the unauthorized use of the “RAW” name on rolling paper and other cannabis-adjacent products.

BBK’s team is preparing to present its case to a jury for a final resolution, however this ruling has widespread implications on how lawsuits in the industry will play out.

Not RAW Rolling Paper’s First Rodeo

There are other legal precedents for alleged trademark infringements regarding RAW Rolling Papers. RAW also won a game-changing lawsuit in 2023 when a rolling paper brand Republic Tobacco appeared to rip off RAW’s signature logo design with similarities in color, shape, and so forth.

RAW (BBK/HBI) issued a statement about the final resolution of the seven-year court battle with Republic Tobacco which had brought a series of lawsuits against HBI International, the company that owns the RAW brand.

The ruling on June 5, 2023 finalizes that jury’s decisions after a weeks-long trial, ruling that Republic Tobacco willfully infringed on RAW’s copyright and trade dress, and awarded to HBI damages of more than $1 million. 

When it includes a prejudgment interest award, the Court ordered Republic to pay RAW nearly $1.5 million in total compensation. Today’s conclusion came after both sides agreed on legal fees that RAW will pay to Republic based on only one of Republic’s multitude of claims.

In that case, the judge ruled that “Republic requests the disgorgement of every cent of profit from HBI’s RAW brand during that time period… This extraordinary request, however, is not supported by adequate evidence, nor is it appropriate considering the other factors of the case.”

RAW has also been involved in advocacy efforts. For instance in August 2023, the brand  announced a donation of $100,000 to The JUSTÜS Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization that is dedicated to facilitating the entry of legacy cannabis operators to the legal cannabis market. The RAW Seeds Fellowships aim to provide opportunities to legacy cannabis operators to navigate the legal cannabis market.

The new ruling adds another dimension to the protections that RAW Rolling Papers and BBK are entitled to, pending the appeal’s final ruling.

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