Miami-Dade County

Miami smoke shops are selling county-themed paraphernalia. Enter the lawyers.

A "dabbing" kit, best known as a way to vaporize marijuana, that's  sold by a Miami smoke shop and carries the "Miami-Dab County" brand. Miami-Dade County, which has a logo that looks the same, sent a stern letter to the shop in May demanding the product be discontinued. The proprietor said it doesn't sell very well, anyway.
A "dabbing" kit, best known as a way to vaporize marijuana, that's sold by a Miami smoke shop and carries the "Miami-Dab County" brand. Miami-Dade County, which has a logo that looks the same, sent a stern letter to the shop in May demanding the product be discontinued. The proprietor said it doesn't sell very well, anyway. dhanks@miamiherald.com

For the record, Miami-Dade County's government has not endorsed any electric smoking device aimed at "dabbing" — slang for vaporizing marijuana oil to deliver a more intense high.

Arguing that fact wasn't clear, a county lawyer in May sent a stern letter to Kendall's Holy Smokes Tobacco Shop demanding the discontinuation of its "Miami-Dab County" vaping products — devices bearing mock county logos with the same font and blue-and-green color scheme that Miami-Dade puts on garbage trucks, building signs, letterhead, uniforms, buses and trains.

"The mark is associated in the minds of the public with the government of Miami-Dade County," wrote assistant county attorney Oren Rosenthal, using the legal term for a logo. "Your illegal use of the mark will confuse the public into thinking the county government ... has adopted or endorsed your product."

A Holy Smokes proprietor doubts that's the case, insisting the joke looks pretty obvious. "Are puns copyrighted?" asked Roberto Jorge, who formed Dab County LLC in 2014 to launch the themed smoking devices.

They weren't big sellers. "I put them on the shelves, and they really didn't move," said Jorge, blaming the dud on vaping technology that ended up outdated shortly after the products arrived. "I thought it was going to take off. My original plan was to do one for every county that's popular."

miaim-dab screenshot .png
A screenshot from vaporartillery.com, a Miami-based website selling the "Miami-Dab County" vaping kits that drew a stern letter from Miami-Dade County claiming trademark infringement. vaporartillery.com

But with weak sales, Jorge never moved onto Dabward County or Dabsco County devices. The Miami-Dab kit sells for $39.95, and includes a "pen" used for vaping and a USB hook-up to a computer for charging.

Can Miami-Dade claim trademark infringement on Miami-Dab? Andres Sawicki, a University of Miami law professor who teaches courses on intellectual property, said the case would hinge on just how confused consumers might be at seeing the "Miami-Dab" product.

"In order for the county’s complaint to get any traction, they’d have to show that consumers are confused as to the source of the pens," Sawicki said. "Without confusion, it's unlikely that this will go very far."

And while the idea of county-sanctioned drug paraphernalia may spark a giggle, Sawicki said the issue could get more complicated in the new era of Florida's state-approved marijuana dispensaries for medicinal cannabis.

All of this may be a moot point for the Miami-Dab line. Jorge said the nine-store Holy Smokes chain is winding down on its original order of 500 Miami-Dab kits, and that he has no plans to hire a lawyer if Miami-Dade presses the issue on a product few people seem to want, anyway.

"Some of the stores may have some still. If they do, it's one or two," he said. "They're not going to get any resistance from us."

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