This origin story is the stuff of legend in the cannabis world. A historic lawsuit between the makers of Gorilla Glue and growers of the similarly named cannabis strain has ended with a settlement.
Five or six years ago, medical marijuana grower Don Peabody was trimming his harvest when he got a phone call. To his surprise, Peabody’s hand was so sticky from his weed’s resin that as he went to hang up the phone, the handset stuck to his palm.
Peabody was reminded of the popular, super-strong adhesive called “Gorilla Glue,” so he dubbed his super-sticky strain “Gorilla Glue #4”. The strain went on to become the Prada of cannabis, highly sought by connoisseurs. The potent hybrid strain took top accolades at leading pot competitions in Michigan and southern California. In 2015, it won “best hybrid flower” at the famed High Times Cannabis Cup world championship in Jamaica.
But the fame has become something of a curse. This summer, Peabody’s Nevada-based cannabis licensing company “GG Strains” is embroiled in a landmark trademark infringement lawsuit filed by The Gorilla Glue Company of Ohio, makers of the liquid adhesive.
The six-month-long case resulted in some major changes to one of the cannabis industry’s most well-known brands and set the stage for more cases of its kind. In March, Ohio based Gorilla Glue took issue with GG Strains, which first grew the popular hybrid strain Gorilla Glue #4, for violating trademarks and potentially tainting the adhesive’s family-oriented reputation. The glue company alleged that the GG Strains branding and use of a gorilla logo were, “confusingly similar” to their own product. It was a claim that the Nevada canna-business found to be ridiculous since the companies sell completely different products.
The case is being taken as an indication that the cannabis industry is making its way into the limelight where litigation and all the rigors of legal business await. Had the case not come to a settlement, the court’s decision might have set a legal precedent with the potential to affect the entire industry. Instead, it continued the pattern of previous cases in which canna-businesses are forced to change their practices by well-established brands.
That list includes cease a desist orders sent out by the Girl Scouts to dispensaries which carried the Girl Scout Cookies strain as well as a 2014 lawsuit between the Hershey chocolate company and TinctureBelle edibles which used to make cannabis inspired versions of Hershey’s chocolate bars like Almond Joy.
“It is a business that should be held to the same standards of fair play in branding that apply to all other businesses,” Thomas F. Hankinson, the lawyer for Gorilla Glue, told The Cannabist. “GG Strains not only took the name but intentionally traded on Gorilla Glue’s reputation for high-quality adhesives’ ‘stickiness.’
Almost all social media mentions of GorillaGlue involve dank buds, not adhesive applications. GG Strains has double the Instagram followers of the glue company.
It’s a major milestone for the industry which is finally being taken seriously in the business world. Though it’s not the kind of attention, these companies were hoping for.
Perhaps the strangest of circumstances in the Gorilla Glue case was the fight over where it would be heard. The companies are headquartered nearly a continent away, but the case was eventually brought to Ohio because Gorilla Glue Co. claimed, “one or more residents in Ohio have purchased clothing directly through defendant’s website,” proving GG Strains could affect Gorilla Glue’s business nationally.
For their part, GG Strains claims they were baited into the courtroom alleging that it was executives at Gorilla Glue who purchased t-shirts from their website to prove their claims. It’s something the Ohio company denies doing.
The settlement will require GG Strains to change the name of its strains from Gorilla Glue to GG #1, 4 and 5. They will also have 12 months to rebrand and remove gorilla imagery from all advertising and surrender their website’s domain name.
The only way GG Strains will be allowed to use the word ‘gorilla’ in its name is in references to the strain’s history, for example, “the brand formerly known as Gorilla Glue #4.”
The court order extends beyond GG Strains to its partners and licensees. Which means that any dispensaries that carry GG strains branding will have to remove all mention of the word gorilla and any gorilla imagery from their shops. For consumers, the strain will likely always be known by its original name – whether the court allows it or not – but for the world-famous strain, it seems to be the end of an era.