A medical cannabis dispensary chain with a location in midtown Tulsa is the subject of a federal copyright infringement lawsuit alleging that the business stole its logo from a children’s entertainment company based in Canada.
Nelvana Enterprises Inc., a corporation with headquarters in Toronto, alleges in a lawsuit filed in Tulsa federal court on Friday that the Treehouse Dispensary chain “willfully copied and is using a confusing similar imitation” of a logo Nelvana has used since the 1990s.
Nelvana also alleges that Treehouse Dispensary said it would stop using the trademarked logo but refused to provide a deadline and failed to follow through on its promise in a timely fashion. As a result, Nelvana seeks financial damages to include profits the dispensaries incurred while using and promoting the logo.
Treehouse Dispensary, with a location at 41st Street and Peoria Avenue in Tulsa, has billed itself as the “home of the $99 ounce” of cannabis. Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority records list the business name for the Tulsa store as “The Treehouse 41 LLC.”
The lawsuit states that Treehouse also operates businesses in Edmond, Midwest City and Muskogee. OMMA records indicate that the Muskogee store is under “The Treehouse 41 LLC” name, while the stores in Edmond and Midwest City are listed under “Treehouse Dispensary” and “Treehouse 7201 LLC,” respectively.
The lawsuit requests a declaration that Treehouse dispensaries committed copyright infringement and engaged in acts of unfair competition and false advertising, and it seeks an injunction preventing the dispensaries from using the logo. Nelvana additionally seeks a court order directing the seizure, delivery and destruction of any cannabis products that violate Nelvana’s rights to its trademark.
Ron Durbin, an attorney representing Treehouse dispensaries, issued a statement Monday afternoon stating that the business “categorically denies that its logo infringes on any existing trademarks in the United States.” He said Treehouse will “vigorously defend” itself in the lawsuit.
A photo posted on Facebook that tagged the dispensary’s Tulsa address states that the firm created a different logo in late May but still uses the name “Treehouse Dispensary.” A July 3 Facebook post expressing dissatisfaction with one of the store’s products shows the newer logo in use on at least some of its packaging, but a mat inside the store that was shown in a July 14 Facebook post features the logo at issue in the lawsuit.
A Tulsa World photographer captured an image of the storefront and of a billboard advertising its $99 ounce special on Monday. Both use the earlier version of the logo.
The Treehouse logo with the font and design at issue in the lawsuit has been in existence in Canada since around 1997, according to the complaint. The lawsuit includes as exhibits several images of Treehouse dispensary billboards and storefronts, which Nelvana said used a “slavish copy” of the logo originally created for use in children’s programming.
Records from the United States Patent and Trademark Office state that the “TREEHOUSEDIRECT” mark belonged to Nelvana as of Nov. 27, 2007. Its first use in commerce was on Sept. 16, 2006, for entertainment services including distribution of television programs and films.
Treehouse Direct has targeted its YouTube channel to United States audiences since the early 2000s; more than 500,000 people now subscribe on its English-language channel, and more than 1.1 million subscribe to its Spanish-language channel. The YouTube channel is in addition to Nelvana’s offerings of broadcast television, cable, and other goods and services such as children’s vitamin supplements, according to the complaint.
“Plaintiff has received complaints from parents and teachers in Oklahoma who are concerned that Plaintiff is selling cannabis or otherwise affiliated with Defendant,” the lawsuit, filed by Tulsa firm McAfee and Taft, states. It goes on to say the confusion is particularly harmful because the Treehouse brand is built around entertainment and products for children and that “hijacking of a children’s brand to sell cannabis products” tarnished its reputation.
But Durbin noted Monday that Treehouse dispensaries made an effort to amend its logo in order to prevent potential confusion. “Treehouse further denies that its logo creates any confusion between Treehouse Dispensary in Oklahoma and any Treehouse educational entity existing in Canada,” he said.
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