A judge stated that the "use of a submarine sandwich mascot and references to 'munchies' further draws the goods into closer comparison."

By Mike Pomranz
June 16, 2021

For generations, marijuana was sold illegally. And when the product you're selling is illegal, you tend not to care about the legality of your marketing: Go ahead and put Mickey Mouse on your acid tabs because, if you get caught, the federal government will be far harsher on you than Disney will.

Maybe that explains why cannabis companies are struggling to adjust to their new legal status. Last month, we covered how major candy companies like Wrigley have been cracking down on THC-infused knockoffs of some of their signature brands like Skittles and Starbursts. This week, the Canadian Broadcasting Company reported on a similar story across our northern border: A Federal Court has ordered the Vancouver cannabis dispensary Budway to pay $40,000 CAD (about $32,000 USD) for infringing on the trademark of sandwich chain Subway.

From the arrows on the letters to the two-color scheme, the Budway logo does look strikingly similar to Subway's. And though a font alone might be defensible, Budway's mascot is also a stoned-looking, marijuana leaf-filled sandwich -- a choice that without the fast food connection probably wouldn't make much sense.

"In each case, the word element of the mark is similar, with the similarities in letters and pronunciation between SUBWAY and BUDWAY being self-evident," Justice Nicholas McHaffie wrote in the decision. "The fact that 'budway' is not itself a word means that it would tend to be read in a manner to connote the common word 'subway.'"

Business Logos in Edmonton
Credit: NurPhoto / Contributor/Getty Images

McHaffie also saw similarities between the two companies' products, stating that even without Subway's trademark registration for use in association with 'cookies' specifically, since both companies sell edible products, there's an overlap. He then added, "I also agree with Subway that the respondents' use of a submarine sandwich mascot and references to 'munchies' further draws the goods into closer comparison."

Beyond a monetary fine, the judge also ordered Budway to stop using its current name and "deliver up or destroy under oath any signage, goods, packages, labels and advertising material in its possession." Thankfully for Budway, however, cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2018, so the marijuana itself they are able to keep.