Old Bay Threatens To Sue Cannabis Apparel Company For Parody Sticker: Report


Annapolis-based Crabcakes & Cannabis said McCormick & Company threatened to sue it over an Old Bay-themed marijuana parody sticker. An Old Bay can is pictured above. (Jacob Baumgart/Patch)

ANNAPOLIS, MD - Old Bay's parent company threatened to sue a marijuana apparel retailer that made a parody sticker resembling the Old Bay can, a new report said.

The Annapolis-based business, Crabcakes & Cannabis, said it got a cease and desist letter from McCormick & Company ordering them to stop spoofing the Old Bay can.

Crabcakes & Cannabis said McCormick's letter stated that it "takes this matter very seriously, as it is not in the business of sponsoring products relating to marijuana use."

"McCormick is committed to protecting the identity of its iconic brands, including OLD BAY," McCormick told Patch in a statement. "It is sometimes necessary to take action to prevent any misuse of our intellectual property. We requested on several occasions that the business cease selling this non-licensed and unapproved product."

Crabcakes & Cannabis disagrees with McCormick but still pulled the sticker from its online store to avoid a costly legal battle.

"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," Crabcakes & Cannabis Founder Jennifer Culpepper said in a Thursday press release. "We stand by the fact that no reasonable consumer would confuse our novelty item with a food seasoning product."

The sticker had the same design and color scheme as the Old Bay can, but it said "420 Bud" and "Dank Herb" instead. There were also drawings of a bong, joint and bowl where the crab, shrimp and chicken illustrations are on an Old Bay can. A photo of the sticker obtained by The Baltimore Sun is posted here

"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," Culpepper said. "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."

Culpepper also owns Brand Joint, a national branding agency. She said she's also been on the other side of copyright infringement cases.

"We have always been very careful not to copy, but rather to create fun and unique parody designs that celebrate Maryland icons," Culpepper said. "We hope that this experience will spark a broader conversation about the importance of protecting parody and freedom of expression in our society."

Crabcakes & Cannabis said it will give away the remaining stickers for free while supplies last in all orders over $20. 

Crabcakes & Cannabis does not sell marijuana, only Maryland-themed weed apparel.

"Marylanders are proud to wear their OLD BAY colors – and we love that they show their pride," McCormick stated. "That said, we must ensure that the use of our brand continues to promote and protect the goodwill we have built over the past 75+ years and is authorized by McCormick."

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