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High Times nips sign row in the bud, wins trademark dispute

High Times magazine is seen in this file photo. A Federal Court judge has sided with the publication in its trademark dispute with a Niagara Falls, Ont., smokeshop.

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A Federal Court judge has ordered Hightimes Smokeshop to take down its sign and pay $55,000 in a ruling that says the shop in Niagara Falls, Ont., has violated the trademarks of High Times, a magazine and website for people who smoke marijuana.

High Times publisher Trans-high Corp. is victorious in its claim the small store violated its trademarks and confused consumers by presenting itself as somehow tied to the U.S.-based company.

"The customers and communities targeted by both parties are very similar," said Justice Michael Manson.

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Court was told a private investigator who visited the shop a few blocks away from the famous water falls found "an unimpressive, lower-end" store selling "an extensive array of smoking and marijuana accessories." The Hightimes sign font is similar to that used in the magazine's logo, said Mr. Manson, who ordered Hightimes Smokeshop to pay Trans-high $25,000 in damages and $30,000 in legal costs.

In awarding damages, the judge noted the shop failed to respond to Trans-high when sent an offer to settle the case. No one from Hightimes appeared in court, and calls to the shop on Wednesday went unanswered.

"I find that there is sufficient evidence to show that there is a likelihood of confusion between the applicant's use of its trade-mark High Times for its magazines and related wares sold through its magazines and website "www.hightimes.com," and the respondent's prominent use of High Times on its storefront and the use of the cannabis motif and sale of counterculture wares in its store is very similar to or the same as the applicant's motif and wares sold in Canada," Mr. Manson said in his judgment.

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