When Patti Smith or Jack Kerouac said "tea," they meant weed.
Apparently Stash Tea Company is worried about similar confusion. In a lawsuit filed April 20—an irony so dire it feels like April Fools'—the Tigard-based tea giant has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against tiny Beaverton dispensary Stash Cannabis Company, asserting "concerted, systematic infringement of trademarks owned by Stash Tea."
Stash had first sent multiple written letters asking it to stop using the name—which the dispensary's owner says he received. Stash Tea's trademark extends to the sale of "dried plants and tea."
"My feeling is, we're different industries," says Stash Cannabis owner Chris Matthews, "and there are a thousand businesses with the name Stash. Just because we sell pot, they think we're hurting their brand."
"Each year Stash Tea spends a substantial amount to develop and maintain the considerable goodwill it enjoys in its trademarks and in its reputation for high quality products," Stash Tea asserts in its lawsuit, which also charges that Stash Cannabis dilutes and damages their brand "by misappropriating and using the likenesses of Stash Tea's Trademarks in connection with the sale of marijuana, and marijuana related products and services."
Matthews says he's retained a trademark lawyer to defend his company's brand, and that he doesn't feel his business, which opened September 2015, affects that of Stash Tea.
Stash was originally founded by late Portland tea legend Steven Smith in 1972—he also founded Tazo and Steven Smith Teamaker—and is broadly considered to have kicked off the modern boom in artisan teas when it was still operating out of a Victorian house. It was acquired in 1993 by Yamamotoyama Tea Company of Japan.
Stash is seeking an injunctive order, legal costs, and damages that include profits—which Stash Cannabis Co. told Marijuana Business Daily were around $3,000 to $4,000 a day.
Matthews says he has no plans to give up the name Stash—but he doesn't rule out a solution that doesn't involve a court case with Stash Tea Company.
"We've just started conversations with them," he says.