Giving Americans ‘Bhang’ For Their Buck

Scott Van Rixel, an American chocolatier, is trying to do something Western businesses have often failed to accomplish: trademark a common Indian word.

Mr. Van Rixel’s product is called “Bhang: The Original Cannabis Chocolate”—or it will be if the trademark application he filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in May is given the green light. Self-described as a “well-established chocolate master” in New Mexico, in the southwestern U.S., Mr. Van Rixel’s newest chocolaty creation is laced with a form of cannabis, or marijuana, that doesn’t give its user a high.

But some are saying Mr. Van Rixel’s trademark attempt rests on rather high hopes. The U.S. Patent office accepts pot-related trademark applications but has never granted one, according to a Wall Street Journal report on a short-lived medical marijuana-specific trademark category. And then there’s the matter of “the doctrine of foreign equivalence.”

The U.S. can “refuse trademark protection to words that, once translated into English, are generic or merely descriptive of the goods to which they apply,” said Rajiv Luthra, founder and managing partner of Luthra & Luthra, an Indian law firm.

In several Indian languages, bhang refers to a preparation of the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant, which has been smoked and blended into beverages in India for thousands of years. The substance has even “become synonymous with Holi,” the colorful Indian festival that celebrates spring, says holifestival.org, a site dedicated to the occasion.

“The very intoxicating bhang helps to escalate the spirit of Holi,” the site reads.

Past patent and trademark attempts that have hinged on generic Indian words or goods have run aground under the foreign equivalence doctrine. In 1997, the Indian government successfully challenged a U.S. patent of turmeric as a wound-healing agent because, the government said, the remedy was an Indian discovery. In 2005, the European Patent Office dismissed a patent application for a fungicide derived from the seeds of the neem tree after evidence revealed Indian farmers had been using the tree’s oil as fungicide “for a long time.”

It’s conflicts such as these that the Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Technology, aimed to avoid with its “traditional knowledge” database of Indian biological and medical practices. In 2006, the Indian government approved providing access to the digital database to international patent offices, according to the database’s Web site.

So far, India’s traditional knowledge database comprises nearly a quarter-million entries. Among them: bhang.

“It is useful in the treatment of orchitis, erysipelas, gout, otalgia, toothache, coryza and cattarh, haemoptysis, mastitis, cough/bronchitis, metralgia, diphtheria, psychosis/insanity/mania,” the entry for bhang reads.

The melting-pot nature of the U.S. may also pose a problem for Mr. Van Rixel. Mr. Luthra said the American’s trademark application could run aground if many of the chocolate’s consumers speak an Indian language, thereby understanding the word’s meaning and mentally translating it into its English equivalent.

“I believe that the registrability of the mark ‘Bhang: The Original Cannabis Chocolate’ would, to a great extent, hinge on the determination of the aforementioned factor [Hindi-speaking Americans],” Mr. Luthra said.

But Mr. Van Rixel, speaking to India Real Time from New Mexico, said his trademark attorneys believe the application won’t be nipped in the bud.

“Because we’re trying to trademark the entire title as a string of words and not simply ‘bhang,’ they said they thought it would be accepted,” he said. “Also, ‘bhang’ is not a commonly-used English word, so I think there are different rules as it applies to that.”

Mr. Van Rixel said the chocolate will be produced in Oakland, Calif., where he has already begun producing T-shirts and baseball caps with the name.

“I think we’ll be protected,” he said. “My trademark would have no value in India.”

– Article from The Wall Street Journal.

Comments

12 Comments

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  2. Scott Van Rixel on

    3) The term “Bhang” refers to the Leaf of the cannabis plant. The religious concoctions you are referencing are made with “Bhang”. I am not trademarking the word Bhang. It is part of a collection of words. Are the Italians agnry because “Pizza Hut” Trademarked their word “Pizza”, no they are not. Because it is part of a collection of words. People will be able to use the word Bhang. Just not to describe a chocolate bar. It is sad that ignorance always leads to hate. I ask people to be clear in the facts before they start throwing mud.

    4) It seems amazing that people in this industry would have the gaul to be angry about us using a word for a product that is used in a religious ceremony in a foreign country, yet will happily call cannabis here “God’s Pussy”… really?

    I hope peole will remember our products for the contribution they make to the medical cannabis community and the hemp industry, instead of the ridiculous accusations made by uninformed individuals.

    Thank You
    Scott J. Van Rixel
    President, Bhang Chocolate Company, Inc.

  3. Scott j. Van Rixel on

    Hello everyone. This is Scott Van Rixel, President of Bhang Chocolate. Once again the media has twisted the facts about things to create “news.” And sadly the public is going to react without doing even a small amount of research. Here are the facts:

    1) We produce two different products. One is the White label… this product is sold with only hemp oil and hemp seeds. We are major contributors to the hemp industry’s lobbyiong efforts and produce this product because we believe hemp has significant health benefits. The second group of products are our black label products. These products are made from organic medical cannabis. We have the most extensive testing and quality control methods in the industry. We are also major contributors to the lobbying efforts of the medical cannabis industry. We also donate a large amount of our products to those who may not be able to afford them.

    2) High end chocolate is expensive to start with. Just go into any store and see what a good chocolate bar costs. In addition, our very extensive quality control and safety program is expensive to operate. We are not just money hungry [email protected], as many of you have claimed. We are doing everything we can to legitimize this industry for the betterment of patients.

  4. Scott Van Rixel on

    We are producing a medical cannabis product. We produce two different products. the black label aremedical cannabis products. the white label products are made with hemp oil and hemp seeds. A large portion of the proceeds go to benefit the Hemp community and it’s lobbying efforts.

    Please be clear in your facts before you start throwing dirt.
    If you would like to have an mature informed conversation i would be happy to do so.

    [email protected]

    thanks

  5. Scott Van Rixel on

    I am not trying to trademark the word “BHANG”. It is part of a collection of words. Are the italians angry because “Pizza Hut” trademarked Pizza Hut… no . It is a collection of words that included that word. Please be clear in your understanding before you go around and call me names.

  6. AK on

    But I would like to respectfully disagree. I definitely think there needs to be more awareness of the many uses of hemp: industrial, food, textile, etc. But the term “Marijuana” specifically refers to the psychotropic action of cannabis. Yes technically this is an edible, but so is raw hemp oil, which you can buy freely anywhere in the Unites States. This is what the issue is about. When a high-end business wants to trademark (which implies an original idea) the name from a very mature spiritual tradition, and says “Hey, this has Cannabis in it, but it doesn’t get you high, like that dirty, evil Marijuana! Buy Now!”, several red flags go up for me right away.

    First of all. Hemp oil will still be imported from Canada, or somewhere where it’s legal to grow it. The people pushing this new “Bhang” do not have a business interest in having Cannabis legally grown in the United States. Quite the opposite is true, they will be able to charge their exorbitant prices even more efficiently as long as Cannabis gets all the attention and intrigue from being an illegal plant. This new article does nothing for the real issue with the Cannabis plant and its legal status.

    Second: You’re right, this will get the masses more confused about “Pot” (again, pot, weed, marijuana, specifically refers to the mind-altering uses of the plant Cannabis), but that’s the opposite of what will help people get more educated about the medicinal and practical uses of Cannabis. The only reason Cannabis is still taboo since it was outlawed in the United States, is because of the psychoactive effects of its female flowers. While hemp products have been used for over 10,000 years, the use of Cannabinoids has a huge potential to empower, heal and inspire the Minorities, the Young, the Sick and the Poor. Almost everyone in America belongs to at least one of these groups. However, any (very very cheap and safe) substance that can give these kinds of people any kind of REAL strength and break them away from the circular thinking/lifestyle that the most public is stuck in is dangerous to the people who wish to accumulate power and money for themselves and their families. Almost everyone THC & the rest of the psychotropic compounds that the buds contain inspire, heal and uplift. Industrial use of hemp for oil, fuel and fiber requires large operations. If you want to use Cannabis as a medicine or an enthegen, however, you can supply yourself for a year by growing a few seeds. How much tax will the few white, old, healthy, priviledged men that run the country get from the sale of a few seeds?

    Third: The drink Bhang, that is still widely consumed in India on the day of Holi (and sanctioned by the governement, AFAIK)is made by grinding the female Cannabis flowers (which is the part of the plant that produces the entheogenic/psychoactive effects) and almonds into milk and rose water. It is a sacrament in the true sense of the word. According to the Indian legend, Lord Shiva gave the Cannabis plant to humanity for use in a spiritual context. A trademark of a name like this is a very strategic push to shamelessly milk money from both the Cannabis Community, and those who feel an affinity with Indian traditions. This is a VERY large group of people, because almost half of Americans admitted to smoking Cannabis, and Western interest in Hinduism, Yoga & other Indian traditions has been growing rapidly since the 1960’s.

  7. War Veteran on

    Actually –this is an edible –granted a little pricy, but definitely an edible –this is good because it’s just one more object that the consumer and retailers get to see as being made from hemp and that the notion of Marijuana isn’t abused –how would you like to risk becoming an alcoholic or drunk because you are forced to drink a lot of wine with Italian food or beer with schnitzel –why must come into an altered state by consuming food. The more and more we see hemp in our products –the more and more the people and government will look at Marijuana as less evil –more normal than alcohol. Cakes that require alcohol in the recipe wouldn’t be a good thing for children if that meant eating them got one drunk –why should we assume forcing the eater to get high is a good thing . . . some people believe any altered state is wrong and are brainwashed into believing that Marijuana gets one high when it creates concrete (now who smokes that?), cars fuels etc. It should be called Bhang as an advertisement gimmick for the masses a little confused about pot: it isn’t just a drug for getting high or alleviating other sicknesses –it’s an ‘everything’ for life. Soon the notion of driving Marijuana to work will be because of one’s ford pickup and not trafficking a few pounds or passing the old joint. So, by definition to the pro-marijuana movement –this chocolate isn’t lame but good. If we don’t support this –then our actions indicate we want pot prohibited since actions are the residue of beliefs and speak louder than words.

  8. Anonymous on

    TM’ing bhang is wrong and disgusting. Chocolate that wont even get you high? Come on now.. Thats like buying a Beer with 0% alcohol content! Check out my blog: http://www.tahoehighlife.blogspot.com I wont try to sell you BS bhang or anything. Just passion about Cannabis!

  9. AK on

    This is not an “edible”, just chocolate with hemp oil, not the herb itself. Since this dufus charges exobitant prices for his gourmet chocolate, I can only assume that this is straight up exploitation and gluttony. I don’t want to type this out again, but here’s what my reply to this link was on facebook, where people seemed to like the link a lot:

    >>>>>>>>>

    “Mr. Van Rixel’s newest chocolaty creation is laced with a form of cannabis, or marijuana, that doesn’t give its user a high.”
    Great, so it has the oil from the seeds, but is not actually made from the flowers, so it doesn’t have any of the healing and uplifting effects of REAL Bhang. I do believe that Hemp oil is a healthy food, but these guys are obviously just trying to milk some money from the Cannabis Community. One of their cheapest confections, chocolate covered espresso beans, are $30 per pound.
    While they are perverting and exploiting peoples people’s spirituality and traditions for profit, they might as well market a green vegetable juice as “Ayahuasca” or patent a portabello mushroom recipe under the name “Teonanácatl”.

  10. Anonymous on

    this is bullshit, hes tryuing to copyright a traditional non-native word, and hes not even making the traditional recipe, this is really pissing me off, he has no right to copy right that, what a fucking prick

  11. Anonymous on

    Anything to copy something for money, the only “Bhang” for your buck from this product is a sugar and caffeine overload. Screw it, no more copycats. Think of something original, its cheesy… moldy chocolate. Neem is neem oil from the neem tree, used for spider mites on cannabis so its already used in this domain but not as “Neem”, but other names like “Einstein Oil” & “Safers” neem oil. But why is “Einstein Oil” taken” Did the neem tree help with this nuclear process??? Curing our cannabis from insect infestations…. Ahhhh….Indians planned it, look out for Indians, and that Dutch Indiana Jones Copycat cruising though India supporting German Einstein Oil used in North America!!!!! Technically Neem is not a word, english word, its auto underlined for incorrect spelling, as noticed by most when typing illiterate info, or do they turn that off on their settings?

  12. War Veteran on

    if it works -he can start producing the legendary Gunjah Wallah candies of 19th Century -doubt he’ll get the old factory back from Broadway New York City -though he won’t sell it for a $1 a box like they used to be.