We previously discussed the need for manufacturers of CBD-infused foods and beverages (“Manufacturers”) to comply with the Food and Drug Administration labeling rules. However, such requirements are only one of many issues Manufacturers should worry about. Indeed, Manufacturers should also ensure: 1) that their name as well as their logo/design are not infringing on those of another; and 2) that they hold the right to the Trademarks they intend to display on their labels. This post provides a brief overview of the steps Manufacturers should take to shield themselves from infringement claims.
Trademark and/or Logo Infringement
As we explained before, trademarks are words, phrases, symbols or designs (i.e., logos) that identify the source of a product and help distinguish that product from that of competitors. The very best way to protect your trademark is to register it at the state or federal level.
Logos may also be protected under copyright law. Copyright law protects literary, musical, graphic, or other artistic forms in which an author expresses intellectual concepts. Thus, logos that are adequately original and ornate have a strong chance of being copyright protected, even without registration—though it is in the Manufacturer’s best interest to register its Logo with the U.S. Copyright Office, see why here.
Choosing branding that will not infringe the trademark and/or copyright rights of another is a critical step in developing a sound marketing strategy. Infringing will not only result in paying substantial damages to the pre-existing brand owner, it will also lead to massive rebranding costs: Think of all those printed labels a Manufacturer will need to throw away and the products they will need to pull off the shelves.
Therefore, before they start printing their labels (and ideally, before they start marketing altogether), Manufacturers should do their due diligence and conduct comprehensive searches with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. Copyright Office to ensure that no one has already registered a similar trademark and/or logo.
Ownership of Logo
Some Manufacturers whose labels we reviewed hired a graphic designer to develop their logo, yet, few entered into a written independent contractor agreement (“Agreement”).
This Agreement is a contract between two parties, in this case a Manufacturer and a graphic designer, for a specific service or project (i.e., the development of a logo). It clearly provides why the graphic designer was hired and stipulates that he or she is not an employee of the Manufacturer for legal and tax purposes.
In addition to requiring the graphic designer to carry insurance and to hold any mandatory professional licenses under state and federal laws, the Agreement states that the designer assigns his or her rights in the work product to the Manufacturer. In other words, the logo becomes the sole ownership of the Manufacturer even if its author is the graphic designer (under copyright law, the author of a creative work is automatically the owner of the work, absent any arrangement to the contrary).
Consequently, an Agreement will ensure that the Manufacturer has the right to freely use the logo, including entering into licensing agreements and relying on their logo as a valuable asset.
With the growing popularity of CBD-infused foods and beverages, Manufacturers are eager to enter the market and tend to rush through the marketing process, running the risk of incurring significant recall and rebranding costs. To avoid such financial burden, Manufacturers should consult with experienced CBD business attorneys who can review their product labels and ensured that their branding is indeed theirs to use.