A legal weed shop in Vancouver, Canada will have to pay C$40,000 to the Subway sandwich chain, and they’re not even going to get one single sub in return.
Last week, the Canadian Federal Court ruled that the Budway Cannabis & Wellness Store in East Vancouver intentionally infringed on Subway’s logo and trademark. In addition to the obvious similarities between the businesses’ names, the Budway logo includes pointed arrows similar to those used on the sandwich chain’s logo. And to make things even more obvious, the pot shop also displays a cartoon mascot of a sub sandwich stuffed with weed.
In his ruling, Justice Nicholas McHaffie described the mascot as “a submarine sandwich filled with cannabis leaves, with what are apparently bloodshot and half-opened eyes.” In a video clip sourced from Instagram, this mascot can be seen ”smoking what is presumably a joint, with the legend ‘It’s the way, bud’ appearing below it.” The judge concluded that “the mental linkage is inescapable.”
Budway knew they were caught, and did not even bother to hire a lawyer or otherwise defend themselves in the case. The judge ruled that Budway deliberately infringed on two Subway trademarks and used them “in a manner that is likely to have the effect of depreciating the value of the goodwill” of the sandwich chain. The weed shop was also found guilty of directing public attention to their store in a way that might cause confusion between themselves and Subway.
The court is ordering Budway and its owner William Matovu to pay Subway $15,000 in damages plus $25,000 in legal fees. The store owners are ordered to cease and desist operating under the name of Budway, and must destroy or surrender any signs, goods, packaging, or advertising that contains their logo or mascot. The company has also been banned from advertising their store using the Budway logo.
As the visibility of the cannabis industry grows, corporations are increasingly on the lookout for weed businesses that are ripping off their trademarks. Just last year, a Canadian court ruled that Herbs R Us, another legal weed dispensary in Vancouver, infringed on the trademarks of the Toys “R” Us chain. And in the US, weed companies have been hit with infringement suits from companies ranging from Kool cigarettes manufacturer ITG, Gorilla Glue, and the Girl Scouts of America.
Massive candy corporations have also won a number of lawsuits against weed businesses for producing edibles that parody popular candy brands. Earlier this year, candy and chewing gum conglomerate Mars Wrigley sued weed companies in Canada, California, and Illinois for ripping off the logos of their popular Skittles and Starburst products. Hershey’s has also sued dozens of companies for riffing on their trademarks, and the Ferrara Candy Company has been cracking down on companies selling infused Nerds Rope candies.