Many of us have had the privilege of trying Maven Genetics’ French Laundry. In the August 2023 issue of High Times Magazine, we explored the brand’s impeccable selection of strains, French Laundry included, which won numerous awards this year at the Farmers Cup in February, The Emerald Cup in May, Zalympix in June, High Times Cannabis Cup SoCal: People’s Choice Edition 2023 in July, and the Transbay Challenge in August. Needless to say, it was French Laundry’s year. Unfortunately, due to receiving a cease and desist letter from The French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, California, Maven Genetics has announced that it will no longer be using the name.
“It is with a blend of pride and a touch of regret that Maven announces a significant development regarding one of our most celebrated strains, French Laundry,” Maven Genetics wrote in a press release. “As the year draws to a close, we face a challenging twist. Maven has received a cease and desist letter from the renowned Napa restaurant French Laundry, citing trademark infringement issues. Our strain’s name, meant as a playful tribute to its parent genetics, was never intended to infringe on any trademark. However, to avoid potential legal entanglements, we have made the difficult decision to retire the French Laundry name from our product lineup.”
Henceforth, the strain will be called FKAFL, which stands for “formerly known as French Laundry.”
Maven Genetics brand director Miguel De Vivo told Forbes that the name never intended to overlap with the trademarked “French Laundry” restaurant. FKAFL is a cross between LA Rouge and The Soap, and the name “French Laundry” was a blend of merging a laundry detergent theme with French inspiration brought by LA Rouge. “Little did we know, the cultivar got attention,” De Vivo said.
Although it’s a bummer to see French Laundry go, it’s hardly going to stop Maven Genetics from celebrating FKAFL and promoting many of the brand’s overall unique strain library. “Despite this turn of events, our commitment to innovation remains strong,” Maven Genetics wrote. “Our genetic library is brimming with exciting new strains, several of which are offsprings of French Laundry. We are confident that these new creations will uphold the esteemed legacy of French Laundry and eagerly anticipate their introduction to our community. We extend our heartfelt thanks to our customers and supporters for their passionate support of French Laundry. Your enthusiasm fuels our mission to continually push the boundaries of cannabis cultivation and breeding.”
Maven Genetics has already removed “French Laundry” from its website and is making immediate plans to make changes to product packaging as well. De Vivo added that this will be the last time we see French Laundry, but it’s just the beginning for FKAFL. “Given that we have many strains coming from that genetic lineage, we weren’t sure if we would continue with FL [French Laundry],” De Vivo explained. “However, with a few more amazing batches in production, it came down to figuring out, how are we going to reintroduce it to the market and potentially close the FL chapter on our terms.”
In a silver lining perspective, De Vivo added that it’s a big deal for a cannabis brand to get on the radar of a reputable restaurant like The French Laundry. “The normalizing aspect of it, the fact that we’re garnering attention from the culinary world at such a level,” says De Vivo. “For us, it’s surprising that they noticed. Being in the same realm is exciting.”
The past decade has changed a lot for the cannabis industry, not just with the increase of states legalizing medical and/or recreational cannabis, but a shift in cannabis product names from infringing upon trademarks to developing fully unique, trademarked names.
One of the first major examples of this was in June 2014 when Hershey filed a lawsuit against a Colorado-based edibles brand, called Tincturebelle, and a Washington-based dispensary called Conscious Care Cooperative, for using Hershey-inspired brand names. The suit was settled by October 2014.
In February 2014, a girl scout set up her cookie table outside of a Los Angeles dispensary and sold out within hours. The event garnered national attention, and eventually led the
Girl Scouts of America to send a letter about the infringement of the strain Girl Scout Cookies upon its registered trademark in 2015.
Another prominent representation of this was in August 2017 when the glue company Gorilla Glue Co. filed a lawsuit against GG Strains for trademark infringement. By October 2017 they reached a settlement, which required the website gorillaglue4.com to be transferred to the ownership of the glue company, that any use of the word “gorilla” or gorilla imagery was prohibited, and the cannabis brand would refer to its products as “GG” instead. However, the settlement also stated that neither company would “disparage each others’ companies, services or actions,” according to a High Times report. GG Strains co-founder Ross Johnson remained optimistic about the situation. “We’re going to survive; we’re going to overcome it,” Johnson said. “Is it a setback? Most definitely, it is a setback. But it’s all behind us now, and it’s allowing us to move forward.”
Since then, many large companies have targeted cannabis brands for similar reasons.
In September 2017, a dispensary named Buds R Us in Detroit, Michigan, received a letter from Toys “R” Us threatening to sue for trademark infringement. In February 2019, UPS (United Parcel Service) sued cannabis delivery businesses like United Pot Smokers, UPS420, and THCPlant. In July 2019, Sour Patch Kids candy maker also targeted illegal cannabis makers marketing their products as “Stoney Patch.” Mars Wrigley won a trademark lawsuit in August 2022 for the use of Skittles likeness on illegal cannabis products.