Wine Spectator’s publisher is suing Weed Spectator over trademark infringement

While producers from Heineken to boutique wineries are dipping their toes in the cannabis drinks market, recent legal action in the US suggests that companies are still at odds on the publishing side of things.

Weed Spectator has come under fire from the publisher of Wine Spectator and Cigar Afficionado.

Wine Spectator‘s publishing house — M. Shanken Communications — has entered into a legal battle with new website Weed Spectator over trademark infringement.

M. Shanken complained that Weed Spectator, which is published by California’s Modern Wellness Inc. was using a 100-point scale similar to Wine Spectator‘s when reviewing cannabis products, while its website and social media pages bore a “striking similarity” to the wine publication’s, according to Reuters.

The New York-based wine publisher also complained that Weed Spectator has applied for a trademark logo using the same font as Wine Spectator‘s, while a cursory Google search for “Weed Spectator” threw up results for the wine magazine.

M. Shanken bought Wine Spectator, which currently has 3 million readers worldwide, in 1979.

Wellness Inc filed two separate trademark applications for Weed Spectator on 2 January 2018, (one with the title “Weed Spectator“, and the other “Weed Spectator: you rate, we score“) both of which are still pending.

But the wine, whisky and cigar magazine publisher called the application a “classic case of ‘passing off.”

“M. Shanken has no interest in associating Wine Spectator and the Wine Spectator marks with cannabis, a largely illegal drug,” the complaint said. “Any association of this type is likely to tarnish the reputation and goodwill that has been built up in the Wine Spectator marks and business for decades, resulting in dilution of the brand.”

Wellness Inc did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

the drinks business has reached out to Wine Spectator for comment.

M. Shanken has a number of publications geared towards high net-worth readers within its portfolio, including Wine Spectator, Whisky Advocate, Market Watch, Impact, and Cigar Aficionado.

On the production side of both industries, collaboration is becoming increasingly common. Several large-scale drinks firms have recently invested in north America’s burgeoning cannabis industry by investing in medical marijuana firms and producing their own THC-infused products, including Molson Coors, Heineken, Constellation, and importer Southern Glazer’s.

Most recently, Smirnoff-maker Diageo was rumoured to be in talks with at least three leading cannabis producers as it considers adding marijuana-infused drinks to its portfolio.

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