Verne Andru regains undisputed Captain Canabis mantle
A nine year journey for Verne Andru ended on the 22nd of September 2022. Since 2013 Andru and Youtuber Lewis Davidson have been in a legal battle over the name Captain Cannabis. Davidson had been using the moniker and persona in a series of videos aimed at law enforcement, while Indie Volt readers will no doubt remember Verne from our review of his publication Captain Cannabis, a property he’s been the creator of since 1977, a key fact in helping decide the ruling.
Check out the press release below for more.
Press Release: USPTO AFFIRMS VERNE ANDRU’S PRIORITY TO CAPTAIN CANNABIS TRADEMARK
Contact: 420@CaptainCannabis.com / Contact@oKee.com
PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VANCOUVER, B.C., CANADA: On September 6, 2022 the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) found in favour of Verne Andru’s petition by cancelling an infringing CAPTAIN CANNABIS trademark on the U.S. register.
The ruling is a milestone in an ordeal begun in 2013 after Verne, whose legal name is Laverne John Andrusiek, responded to an alert that Lewis Davidson was using the Captain Cannabis name and persona in Youtube videos to disparage law enforcement.
After Verne put him on notice to stop Davidson registered the name with the USPTO’s trademark office in 2014, that registration being subject of the cancellation order; Verne is internationally recognized as creator of Captain Cannabis comic books from the nineteen-seventies.
“Davidson’s actions not only infringe my long-standing rights, they cause problems with law enforcement,” Verne commented. “He identifies himself only as ‘Captain Cannabis’ while wearing a mask and rants against police on bad cell phone videos. Since I’m the recognized creator, heat automatically falls on me for what he does and that’s just plain wrong.”
Davidson secured the trademark registration in 2015. In 2016 he sent Verne an email stating, among other things, he registered the trademark in response to being put on notice to stop, which he wasn’t going to do. He gave Verne three days to agree to pay license fees on pain of being put out of business. Verne responded by filing to have the trademark cancelled, which a panel of 3 Administrative Trademark Judges just agreed to do.
A 38-page opinion accompanies the cancellation order. After laying out the case background and resolving technical issues the Board finds Verne’s “interest is squarely within the zone of interests protected by the statue and he holds reasonable belief that damage is proximately caused by the continued registration.”
Finding Verne entitled to relief and agreement on likelihood of confusion, the remaining question was, who used Captain Cannabis as a commercial trademark first?
After weighing the evidence the Board found Davidson’s earliest date to be 2014, a year after Verne put him on notice to stop.
The Board then found Verne “has shown his priority … and because Respondent (Davidson) has conceded that there is a likelihood of confusion,” determined the former proved his case with evidentiary support dating from 1977.
In arriving at the decision the opinion explains, “…one should look at the evidence as a whole, as if each piece of evidence were part of a puzzle which, when fitted together, establishes prior use. When all … is considered together, it establishes that Petitioner (Verne) used the mark CAPTAIN CANNABIS … prior to the April 2, 2014 filing date of Respondent’s underlying application…”
Grateful for the decision Verne summarized, “It was a long and unnecessary episode I hope can be put behind us. I have a great and growing Captain Cannabis brand that can now move forward knowing the courts have drawn the line and infringers will be held to account.”
Cancellation No. 92064830 was granted September 6, 2022 by the USPTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and is styled Laverne John Andrusiek v. Cosmic Crusaders LLC and Lewis J. Davidson.
For more information:
Hi-Res Press Kit: http://www.captaincannabis.com/WebApp/Downloads/NewsRoom/USPTO-Affirms-Captain-Cannabis.pdf
Hi-Res Images: http://www.captaincannabis.com/WebApp/Downloads/NewsRoom/CaptainCannabis2022Pics.zip
Editorial Coverage: https://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/trademark/1228842/ttab-orders-cancellation-of-captain-cannabis-registration-for-comic-books-petitioner-proved-priority-by-use-analogous-to-trademark-use
Cancellation Order/Trial Files on USPTO website: https://ttabvue.uspto.gov/ttabvue/v?pno=92064830&pty=CAN&eno=66
While this is undoubtly good news for Verne, this could have some far reaching consquences as far as naming conventions go on the internet! Despite educational efforts there are still a large amount of indie (or otherwise) creators who don’t fuilly understand copyright/trademark law, and obviously there are others who just don’t think it applies to them at all. What’re your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!