Last Week in Weed
In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at chewing gum giant Wrigley’s suing several cannabis brands for copyright infringement, Tilray and Aphria completing their planned merger, and a UK worker winning thousands from an employment tribunal after being unfairly dismissed following a failed drug test.
Wrigley’s files lawsuits against cannabis brands for copyright infringement
The first story that we’ll cover this week is one you may of seen coming. It was announced late last week that Wrigley, the makers of Wrigley’s chewing gum, Skittles and Starburst have filed several lawsuits in Chicago and California.
The confectionery giant is suing the three small cannabis companies Terphogz LLC, Packaging Papi LLC, and 2020ediblez. In the case against Packaging Papi Wrigleys alleges that they were selling ‘medicated’ Skittles, Lifesavers (Polo mints), and Starburst lookalike ‘Cannaburst’.
Terphogz – the promoter of the Zkittlez cultivar and merchandise brand is also being sued by Mars Wrigley in Chicago over infringement of their sweet brand Skittles. The chewing gum manufacture is claiming for false designation of origin, unfair competition, trademark dilution, trademark infringement, cybersquatting, and other related claims.
“At Mars Wrigley, we take great pride in making fun treats that parents can trust giving to their children and children can enjoy safely. We are deeply disturbed to see our trademarked brands being used illegally to sell THC-infused products” – Mars Wrigley spokesperson
The billionaire confectioner is claiming that the Zkittles brand has been so successful that it commands a 20% premium over other similar brands in the cannabis industry “But those ill-gotten gains have come at the expense of the public which believes that Wrigley approves the ZKITTLEZ goods” claims the sweet maker. Wrigley’s also alleges that the Zikkles tag line ‘Tazte the Ztrain bro’ is a rip off of their skittles tag line ‘Taste the Rainbow’ a violation of their intellectual copyright and trademark.
“Wrigley commenced this action to protect the public from Terphogz’s deceptive and dangerous business practices and to safeguard the goodwill and reputation of Wrigley’s renowned SKITTLES Marks” – Lawsuit documents
This isn’t the first time that a cannabis brand has gotten into trouble with the ‘legit’ brand that they are copying or imitating. Back in 2017, the makers of the adhesive brand Gorilla Glue sued the cannabis company GG Strains LLC for trademark infringement.
The case was settled in the adhesive brand’s favour and although no money was exchanged it still forced GG Strains to shut its website and remove the word Gorilla from all branding. The suit and subsequent rebranding were estimated to cost the company $250,000.
Terphogz , who has since changed the name of Zkittlez to ‘The original Z’ stated in a post on Instagram that “We have never even done any candy/edible collab ever with any company. We have never made candy. We have no connection or companies in or with Illinois or Canada.”
“That doesn’t mean you can use an existing brand name, particularly one that is associated with a children’s candy product to identify your marijuana strains.” A rather valid point raised by trademarking expert Shabnam Malek when speaking to Leafly about the case recently.
This defence isn’t likely to succeed, especially against the sheer weight and might of Wrigley’s legal department. Worse still for Terphogz, unlike the GG lawsuit where no recuperation of revenue was sought, the fact Wrigley’s brought up the profits made from the sale of Zkittlez suggests they may go after Terphogz bank account too.
Tilray and Aphria complete merger -creating the world’s largest cannabis company.
In our second story this week, we look at the news that Tilray and Aphria have completed their planned merger. We covered this in issue 2 of Last Week in Weed, so I won’t cover too much old ground. The announcement brings relief to investors that were beginning to worry the deal may fall through as the previous one with Aurora had.
The combined profits for the two companies in 2020 was estimated $500 million. This means that the finalising of the merger now makes the ‘new Tilray’ Canada’s and the world’s largest cannabis company based on pro forma revenue. Its new market capitalisation is estimated to be around $8.2 billion.
Under the terms of the agreed merger, Aphria shareholders will receive 0.8381 shares of Tilray for each Aphria common share they own. Aphria’s chairman and CEO Irwin Simon will now lead the newly combined firm.
“Our focus now turns to execution on our highest return priorities including business integration and accelerating our global growth strategy. Covid-19 related lockdowns have presented unique challenges across Canadian and German markets. As these markets begin to re-open, Tilray is poised to strike and transform the industry with our highly scalable operational footprint, a curated portfolio of diverse medical and adult-use cannabis brands and products, a multi-continent distribution network, and a robust capital structure to fund our global expansion strategy and deliver sustained profitability and long-term value for our stakeholders.” – Irwin Simon Tilray CEO
Tilray was the first North American cannabis company to gain European GMP accreditation back in 2016. They have since expanded into several European countries including France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Portugal, and Germany where they now have 70% of the country’s ‘medical cannabis’ import market. Tilray also recently secured a deal with Grow Pharma in the UK to import and prescribe their ‘medical cannabis’ products.
The growth in these international markets and ambitious cost savings in cultivation and production, cannabis and product purchasing, sales and marketing, and corporate expenses are estimated to generate $81 million of annual pre-tax cost synergies within the next 18 months.
Until European countries prioritise domestic cultivation companies like the new Tilray will continue to dominate the ‘medical cannabis’ industry in Europe.
British man sacked for failing cannabis drug test wins thousands at tribunal
The final story that we’ll be looking at this week is an update to a story we first covered in issue 7 of Last Week in Weed here on TheSimpaLife.com. In April 2020 a ‘drivers mate’ at a recycling centre in East London was fired after he failed a random drug test at work.
Carl Pamment failed a random drug test at work after testing positive for cannabis. His employer immediately dismissed him. Mr. Pamment took his employer to tribunal for unfair dismissal and won. The judge agreed that the company had not taken his impeccable record or legitimate medical need into consideration before firing him.
“What is undoubted is that Mr. Pamment’s back problem was entirely genuine he had frequent visits to the doctor. He was due to have an epidural injection. He was given various different medications to help the pain, including morphine patches. None seemed to work for him. In December 2019 a friend told him that cannabis helped, and he bought some from a friend.”
“It worked for him, and helped him sleep, the pain being a problem preventing him sleeping well. Eventually his medication, perhaps with the cannabis, was effective enough for him to return to work” – Judge Housego
This week the judge returned a verdict and awarded £33,766 in compensation to Mr. Pamment. The judge also stated that “There is, in my judgement at this point, no reason why it is not practical to reinstate him.”
The judge concluded the proceedings by stating that “I conclude that the objections put forward are all manifestations of reluctance to have Mr. Pamment back, based on the use of illegal drugs in the past, and not a genuine loss of trust in him”
“I considered that Mr. Pamment had made every reasonable effort to find employment in this most extraordinary of times. He is a person without qualifications, who happened into a job he liked and was good at”
‘It is hard to see him getting another such job easily, particularly given the reason for dismissal and his history of back problems, when his work is of a physical nature. ‘It is unfortunate that Renewi did not think it relevant that Mr. Pamment had a long-standing and acute back pain problem and that this was the reason why he had taken cannabis…. his motivation was not hedonistic.”
Whether Mr. Pamment will regain his previous position is yet to be seen. Regardless this case sets a great precedent in tribunal case law and serves as a testament to just how far the movement has come in the UK over the last few years.
Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com