CBD is having a bit of a moment right now. The non-psychoactive and generally legal part of the marijuana plant (though it’s mostly harvested using hemp or other sources, like tree bark) is being added to juices, soaps, and of course coffee. Indeed, the “would you like CBD with that?” $5 upcharge is a growing boon for coffee bars and cafes across the United States. But one coffee company is understandably none too pleased about it.
That would be Coffee By Design, a Portland, Maine coffee company whose trademarked name and acronym they argue are being infringed upon. According to Bloomberg, the 25-year-old brand has held both trademark for the name Coffee By Design as well as the initials CBD used in conjunction with the sale of coffee since 2010, two years before Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use of cannabis and six years before their home state followed suit. In 2017, the company rebranded to simply CBD. Now, with the recent boom in recreational cannabis as well as the proliferation of CBD products, the Coffee By Design trademark has seen a deluge of what the brand alleges to be textbook infringement.
Not only were customers coming in expecting to get a sweet mellow at the local Coffee By Design, but other shops around town were advertising their own “CBD coffee” (no relation to Coffee By Design). This causes heaps of customer confusion, and United States trademark law puts the burden on Coffee By Design to defend the use of their trademarked term, a legal reality we’ve explored previously on Sprudge as it relates to coffee.
Read Jenn Chen’s three-part series on intellectual property law in coffee around the world.
Coffee By Design co-owner Alan Spear tells Bloomberg that he isn’t trying to keep other shops from putting CBD in their coffee, but wants them to not call it “CBD coffee.” From Bloomberg:
“We’re well within our rights to prevent others from using the term CBD as a trademark in relation to coffee and coffee shops,” Spear says. “As a responsible trademark owner, we have an obligation… All we hope to do is prevent consumers from being confused about what they are purchasing and who they are purchasing it from.”
Spear goes on to suggest shops sell the product using the term “CBD extract coffee” or “cannabidiol coffee.”
Coffee By Design’s defense of this trademark in Maine could have wide-reaching implications for the use of “CBD coffee” in other settings across the country. This story is developing, and in the meantime we look forward to the inevitable Tim Horton’s “THC” rebrand following Canada’s national marijuana legalization.
Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.