August 27, 2014 in City

High Times publisher files suit against Ephrata pot shop

By The Spokesman-Review
 

An Ephrata, Washington, marijuana retailer is the target of a media empire that labels itself as the biggest brand name in pot.

Trans-High Corp., parent company of the publication High Times, has sued shop owner Richard Reimers and his business, previously known as High Time Station, for trademark infringement. The lawsuit filed Monday in Spokane follows letters and a proposed written agreement to change the retailer’s name sent by the New York-based publishing company earlier this summer.

It is not the first time the company has sued in what it calls bids to protect trademarks that have been held since the 1970s. But it is the first time such a legal action has been taken against a seller under Washington’s legalization of recreational pot.

Reimers has since changed the name of his business to Cannarail, according to state licensing records. The shop is housed in a suite along the railroad tracks northwest of Ephrata. Reimers said via email that he opened his store July 22 but closed down four days later due to a lack of product. He has not been open since July 26. He and his attorney, John R. Zeimantz, declined to comment further for this story.

In their complaint, Trans-High Corp. alleges Reimers used “High Time” in his store’s name with intent to deceive members of the public about a relationship between the retailer and the magazine. Trans-High attorney Kieran Doyle said the company is acting to protect the goodwill it has established over its four decades of existence.

“As much as they welcome the growth of the new cannabis economy, they won’t allow their brand to be cannibalized,” Doyle said of Trans-High Corp.

The counterculture monthly magazine High Times was founded by journalist and activist Tom Forcade as a single-print periodical satirizing Playboy in 1974. Since then, the parent company has branched out into selling merchandise and sponsoring international events.

The parent company has relentlessly pursued legal action against organizations and individuals it believes are infringing on its trademarks, with an impressive record of success.

In January, Trans-High settled a lawsuit with a Western Washington marijuana growing collective over the use of the company’s “Cannabis Cup” moniker for a competition last fall. According to an agreement filed in federal court, Northern Cross Collective Gardens is barred from using Cannabis Cup in promotion of any future events. They also were ordered to destroy any promotional materials for their event that used the Cannabis Cup name.

Trans-High sued a Seattle travel agency calling itself High Times Travel last year, claiming similar trademark infringements. The company never responded to the lawsuit, and it was dismissed. Its website and social media accounts have gone dormant.

The magazine successfully sued a rival publication based in Denver, called Mile High Times, in a New York federal court earlier this year. Less than a month after the lawsuit was filed, the parent company of the rival publication signed an order agreeing to remove “High Times” from its name and to destroy any materials using the trademark.

Doyle said in each of those cases, the company attempted to resolve the dispute before it reached a courtroom.

“We take it seriously,” he said. “Our first effort is to always try to work things out.”


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