An unlicensed New York City cannabis shop is the latest weed business to get sued for ripping off a giant corporation's well-known trademark.
Tru Kids, owner of the popular Toys R Us brand, has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Zaza R Us, a tiny pot shop in Brooklyn's highly gentrified Williamsburg neighborhood. In addition to the obvious similarities in the businesses' names, the toy company accuses Zaza of biting its logo. Not only does the shop's logo include multicolored letters in a similar font to the Toys R Us logo, it also has the same backwards “R” that the toy store has used for decades. The weed shop did replace the star in the logo with a pot leaf, at least.
“Toys R Us dedicates immeasurable efforts and resources to ensure that the Toys R Us brand maintains a fun, safe and kid-friendly image,” the complaint states, according to MJBizDaily. “Defendants’ juxtaposition of the Toys R Us Marks with defendants’ smoking and drug-related products tarnishes plaintiff’s carefully crafted brand.”
Zaza R Us does not have a legal license to sell cannabis in New York, and is currently listed on Google as a tobacco shop. But as the lawsuit helpfully points out, zaza is slang for top-shelf weed. New York's endlessly-delayed adult-use cannabis rollout has created a massive demand for black market bud, and nearly 1,500 illegal cannabis shops have sprung up in NYC to meet that demand.
Tru Kids has filed claims for trademark dilution, trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition under both federal and state law. The corporation is asking the court to permanently block Zaza from using its current logo and to destroy any existing instances of said logo. And of course, Tru Kids is demanding that the pot shop cough up some dough to cover the damages caused by their infringement.
Some companies have recently tried to use US parody law as a defense in similar copyright cases, but it's unclear if Zaza's owners will choose to do so. The company is already breaking both federal and state law by reportedly selling weed without a license, so the owners will probably want to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
The new legal dispute is only the latest in a long, long string of trademark infringement battles between major corporations and tiny weed startups. The vast majority of these cases revolve around edibles producers that have created THC-infused knockoffs of popular kids' candies. Hershey's, Ferrara, and Mars Inc. have all taken to the courts to stop both legal and black market weed manufacturers from selling products like “Zkittles,” “Infused Nerds Rope,” and “Mr. Dankbar.”
Other companies, like Zaza, have gotten sued over the names and trademarks of their businesses. In 2021, tobacco conglomerate ITG Brands forced a legal California cannabis company to pay up for copying the interlocking “OOs” from its iconic Kool cigarettes logo. And even more recently, Nike sued a legal hemp company over its “Just Hemp It” slogan. Gorilla Glue and the Girl Scouts of America have also blocked dispensaries from selling weed strains under those same names.
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