Oklahoma is one of a number of states that allows the sale of medical cannabis. The high consumer demand, combined with relatively low license fees and barriers to entry in the market, has led to reportedly fierce competition among dispensaries.
One dispensary, operated by “DOK Corporation,” sought to set itself apart from the competitors by attempting to trade on an existing company’s name by using a “pun.” Specifically, DOK decided to go by the name “Dank of Oklahoma” (a pun on the established “Bank of Oklahoma”). “Dank” is a slang term that is used to indicate that cannabis is of particularly high quality and/or potency.
BOKF, NA owns trademark rights covering “Bank of Oklahoma.” Not surprisingly, BOKF, operating in the conservative and highly regulated banking and finance industry, did not find the Dank of Oklahoma pun to be a laughing matter. It filed suit against DOK alleging five claims, including trademark infringement, trademark dilution, unfair competition and unjust enrichment.
Just three months after BOKF filed suit, the parties resolved the matter “amicably” by, among other things, agreeing to the entry of a permanent injunction, which enjoins DOK from using “Dank of Oklahoma” and any other logo or name that would be confusingly similar to “Bank of Oklahoma.”
There are lessons here for both mature companies that are looking to protect their good name and reputation, as well as small startup cannabis companies. For mature companies, it is important to keep an eye out for these “pun” style names by cannabis companies and realize that there are legal steps that companies can take to protect themselves. Furthermore, as many cannabis companies are small and relatively new, a quick settlement will likely be possible. For cannabis startups, the lesson is that even if you think your clever name is funny, if it is too close to a legitimate company, you may not just be attracting new business but also a costly lawsuit.
The case is BOKF NA v. DOK Corp., case number 4:20-cv-00100, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.