Gorilla Glue vs. Gorilla Glue

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GG Strains reaches settlement with Gorilla Glue in trademark infringement lawsuit.

November 1, 2017

©id-work | iStockphoto.com

Las Vegas cannabis cultivator GG Strains reached a settlement with Ohio-based Gorilla Glue on Sept. 9 after the adhesives company sued the grower in March over its use of “Gorilla Glue” in naming its strains of medical marijuana, according to a GG Strains press release.

The lawsuit filed in March at the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati aimed to prohibit GG Strains from further use of the Gorilla Glue trademark on any of its products and services, according to a statement given to Cincinnati.com by Thomas Hankinson, an attorney representing Gorilla Glue from Cincinnati law firm Keating Muething & Klekamp.

GG Strains’ CEO/CMO Catherine Franklin said in an interview with Cannabis Business Times that GG Strains benefited much more than they had anticipated from the settlement, which allows a transition period where GG Strains will stop using the trademarked name “Gorilla Glue,” but will be able to use the words “formally known as Gorilla Glue” for one year. This transition period also applies to GG Strains’ licensed partners.

GG Strains trademarked GG4’s name to help its customers ensure they are receiving authentic product.
Photo courtesy of GG Strains

The strains were rebranded as of Sept. 19, and Gorilla Glue #4 will be GG4 or Original Glue; Gorilla Glue #5 will be GG5 or New Glue; and Gorilla Glue #1 will be GG1 or Sister Glue, per the release.

Packaging and marketing guidelines are also outlined in the settlement, requiring GG Strains to send amendments to its existing partnership agreements and set new marketing guidelines for company seals and logos, the release said.

If Gorilla Glue discovers anything that violates the settlement agreement, they must first address it with GG Strains, which then has 40 days to correct the problem, Franklin said.

“It was a parody, a joke,” GG Strains’ co-founder and strain co-creator Ross Johnson said in an interview with Cannabis Business Times on how the names were originally chosen.

Johnson said Don Peabody, the strains’ co-creator, got a phone call while trimming and noticed his hands sticking to the phone.

“This stuff’s stuck like Gorilla Glue,” he said, and the name was born.

Franklin said when GG4 originated, they simply called it “4,” and Johnson added that the company never set out to create a strain called Gorilla Glue.

“[If] you look at the cannabis history, the naming of cannabis has never been very unique. It’s always been a parody industry,” Franklin said.

When they named GG4, Franklin added, they were not thinking about the adhesives company, but were instead focused on ensuring GG Strains’ customers were receiving authentic GG4 and not one of the many fakes on the market hoping to cash in on GG4’s popularity.

“Cultivators and dispensaries were realizing that GG4 was the No. 1 award-winning strain, two years in a row,” Franklin said. “They knew if they sold it, [it] would fly … off the shelves. People were just labeling anything they wanted as GG4 just to sell it.”

The strain won first place in the 2015 World Cannabis Cup, the company reported.

Franklin said during the trademarking process, they never considered the adhesives company since they are in a different market.

Customers can look for GG4’s official seal to know it’s authentic.
GG4 Seal is courtesy of GG Strains

“Gorilla Glue adhesives isn’t something very common,” she said. “It wasn’t really that we were worried about it. Once we got bigger, … we knew we needed to rebrand.”

Franklin said GG Strains began rebranding the strains just over a year and a half ago, when a law in Oregon surfaced that forced companies to change brand names that were enticing to children. GG4 was on the list, she said, but was later removed.

“When that came to our attention, that our name might not be able to be used because it’s enticing to children, that’s when we as a group decided we just needed to brand her as GG4,” Franklin said. “We weren’t really pushing it as hard, but we were realizing, one, what happens if Gorilla Glue comes knocking, and two, we don’t want to entice children.”

Franklin said Gorilla Glue’s lawsuit was most likely due to their web presence being overtaken with GG Strains’ products. She said when someone searches the Gorilla Glue hashtag on social media or simply runs a Google search on Gorilla Glue, many of the results are cannabis-related, featuring GG Strains’ products.

“The Gorilla Glue company invested a great deal in its Gorilla Glue brand, and owes it to its stakeholders, including its employees and customers, as well as its shareholders, to protect that brand and its ability to communicate to consumers through that brand,” Hankinson said.

When GG Strains was sued, they made it a priority to protect their licensed cultivators and other partners who grow and sell their certified strains, Franklin said. GG Strains decided at that point to not immediately settle, but to fight for certain conditions to be met.

It took two months for both parties to reach a settlement agreement.

GG4 grown by GG Strains’ co-founder and strain co-creator Ross Johnson in his personal medical garden.
Photo by Ross Johnson

“We weren’t going to be able to just change [the name] today,” Franklin said. “We’re a small business. We’re three people. Changing logos, changing websites, getting our cultivators [on board], [altering] the track and trace system, it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Johnson said although the lawsuit stretched GG Strains financially, both parties learned valuable lessons.

“The Gorilla Glue company opened up their mind [and] realized how big of an industry cannabis is becoming,” he said. “They decided to loosen their tie a little bit. … They started to see our point.”

He said many of the attorneys did not understand the cannabis industry and how its businesses operate, and said the lawsuit offered them insights into the cannabis community.

Johnson and Franklin both added that the lawsuit should teach the industry to be unique when naming their strains and other products.

“In the future, if [people] think they have the next best, greatest thing, [they should] select a good, unique name,” Johnson said. “People are going to realize that this is becoming mainstream, and they’ve got to think a little bit harder before they slap a name on a product.”

“We both spent a lot of money, but I think we walked away going, ‘All right, we can live with this,’” Johnson added. “We’re able to stay in business, and they hopefully will get their name back. And I want them to get their name back.”

Melissa Schiller is the Assistant Digital Editor for Cannabis Business Times.