The original Woodstock was a three-day music festival filled with drugs, sex and mayhem that defined a generation known for its deep distrust of authority. But 50 years later, the owners of the festival name are getting an assist from a federal judge.
Power to the people, indeed.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe said that Woodstock Ventures, which produced the 1969 festival, could indeed license its name to create a marijuana brand commemorating the concert’s golden anniversary this summer. In doing so, Gardephe rejected a claim that the cannabis brand would infringe on Woodstock Roots, a company that does business as “Woodstock American Products” and that sells a variety of hemp-related products.
In his ruling, Gardephe said that the commemorative marijuana products brand sought by Woodstock Ventures are “different” than the cannabis-related “smokers articles” offered by Woodstock Roots. Woodstock Ventures products “all involve the use of recreational marijuana, while [Woodstock Roots] have expressly disavowed the notion that their products are intended for use with recreational marijuana,” the judge said in his ruling.
“Accordingly, even if the parties’ products are marketed through the same or similar trade channels, this fact does not suggest a likelihood of confusion, because [Woodstock Ventures’] products either constitute or are intended for use with recreational marijuana, while [Woodstock Roots’] ‘smokers’ articles” are not intended for use with recreational marijuana,” Gardephe wrote.
Gardephe cited the 2008 trademark dispute of Constellation Brands, Inc. v. Arbor Hill Assocs., Inc, which centered around two different alcoholic beverages with similar names: Constellation’s “Arbor Mist” and AHA’s “Arbor Hill.” Gardephe noted that the judge in that case “ruled two alcoholic beverages sold in similar channels are not related because ‘the nature of the two products is clearly different, since Arbor Hill is traditional table wine, while Arbor Mist is a mix of wine and fruit juice, with a lower alcohol content than most wine.’”
In denying Woodstock Roots’ motion for a preliminary injunction, Gardephe further noted that the company had “not demonstrated a likelihood of success on their trademark infringement claims.” The case was filed in the Southern District of New York.
For Woodstock Ventures, the ruling was a rare bright spot in its efforts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of America’s most famous music festival. In January, the company announced plans to hold “Woodstock 50” in Watkins Glen, New York. The concert, slated to be held in mid-August, booked some top-tier acts in March, with the likes of Jay-Z and The Killers expected to headline along with a number of performers from the original festival.
But the concert has become a rolling calamity, as organizers failed to secure the necessary permits from the state of New York and ultimately saw performers back out. But, for now, the show is expected to go on—albeit in a different state. Organizers announced that the festival, scheduled for August 16-18, will relocate from New York to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland.