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MGM trademark dilution suit against medical-marijuana firm settled

A recent trademark lawsuit in Las Vegas illustrates important legal concepts and takeaways for other businesses.

Would people confuse the brand M life with M'Life in the marketplace? MGM Resorts International, the owner of several high-end resorts and casinos in Las Vegas, believes so and in September 2014 filed a federal lawsuit in Las Vegas against medical-marijuana company M'Life Wellness, related companies and its executives to protect MGM's M life trademarks.

M life is MGM's brand used since 2010 for its member rewards program in which customers earn unique rewards for spending money at MGM resorts, restaurants, entertainment venues, casinos and spas.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the M'Life medical-marijuana companies set up shop in Nevada in 2014 hoping to land one of the new marijuana-dispensary licenses.

The legal allegations

MGM's complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Nevada contains these legal claims:

  • Trademark dilution by blurring the M life marks' distinctiveness and tarnishing their reputation by creating a confusing association with marijuana
  • Unfair competition in that use of the M'Life brand would cause confusion as to whether it is affiliated with the MGM marks
  • Cybersquatting by using a "confusingly similar" website domain name

The plaintiff requested an injunction (court order directing a party to take or refrain from a particular action) forbidding the defendants from using the M Life marks or any "confusingly similar variations," as well as from using them in any Internet domain name. MGM also asked for compensatory, consequential, statutory and exemplary (punitive) damages; legal fees; and costs.

The Review-Journal article states that the parties filed notice with the court in March 2015 that they had settled their legal dispute and that M'Life had agreed to change its name. Its CEO says that they had no intention of infringing on the trademarks - that "M" was just meant to stand for marijuana.

Important takeaways

The MGM suit illustrates legal issues that can come up in any business regarding the importance of managing intellectual property like trademarks, copyrights, patents, trade secrets and more. First, it is important for companies of any size to file the appropriate paperwork to obtain official government protection for its brands, inventions, creative works and other kinds of intellectual property. A business should also monitor for potential infringement by other parties and consider legal action when appropriate.

Second, when a business sets up shop, it should check to see if intellectual property it plans to use is already protected or owned by any other person or company first, so as not to infringe on those rights. Of course, a business of any type or size should seek legal counsel with intellectual property experience to assist with all of these steps, including the possibility of intellectual property litigation.

The business lawyers at the Law Offices of P. Sterling Kerr, P.C., with its office in Henderson, Nevada, assist Las Vegas-area business clients of all sizes in protecting their intellectual property, including bringing or defending intellectual property lawsuits.

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