March 4, 2024
Annapolis, US 46 F

McCormick & Company Can’t Take a Joke

Annapolis-based  Crabcakes & Cannabis, has decided to stop selling a popular parody sticker amidst a cease-and-desist dispute with global seasoning giant McCormick & Company, Incorporated, the makers of Old Bay® seasoning. The novelty sticker, which humorously parodies the iconic Old Bay spice jar, sparked controversy as McCormick alleged trademark infringement and tarnishing of their image by associating it with marijuana.

Jennifer Culpepper, Founder of Crabcakes & Cannabis, says, “While we firmly believe in the protection of parody and First Amendment rights, the prohibitive cost of litigation led us to make the difficult decision to discontinue our parody sticker. We stand by the fact that no reasonable consumer would confuse our novelty item with a food seasoning product.”The cease and desist letter sent from McCormick & Company upon the Jack Daniels SCOTUS decision claimed that the parody sticker, featuring the words “420 BUD” in a design reminiscent of the Old Bay jar, infringed upon their trademark and trade dress, potentially harming their brand’s reputation. McCormick stated that the company “takes this matter very seriously, as it is not in the business of sponsoring products relating to marijuana use.”

With McCormick & Company being the expert on herbs and spices, perhaps they could have taken a lesson from this Herb on settling a David Vs Goliath disagreement!

Culpepper continued, “We deeply respect businesses’ (and artists’) rights to safeguard their brands, but it is paramount that we strike a balance between these rights and the freedom of expression and creativity that parody affords. When a large business bullies a small business through costly litigation, it makes standing up for your rights nearly impossible. Regardless, we still love Old Bay. Our parody sticker was intended to pay homage to the Maryland brand, not to tarnish anyone’s reputation.”

Crabcakes & Cannabis, renowned for its distinctive Maryland cannabis-themed apparel, has long embraced Maryland’s unique cultural and traditional facets. The parody sticker served as a lighthearted tribute to two quintessential elements of Maryland life – Old Bay seasoning and the newly-legalized cannabis culture. 

While the company is disappointed to discontinue the sticker, it remains committed to its mission of spreading joy and creating community among Maryland cannabis enthusiasts. The company will continue to provide customers with a wide variety of Maryland-themed cannabis apparel and accessories.

Culpepper is also the owner of Brand Joint, a national branding agency, and has previously been on the other side of copyright infringement. She states, “We have always been very careful not to copy, but rather to create fun and unique parody designs that celebrate Maryland icons.”

In the spirit of encouraging creativity, Culpepper concluded, “We hope that this experience will spark a broader conversation about the importance of protecting parody and freedom of expression in our society. 

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