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US: Court convicts RAW of false claims and unfair competition

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HBI International, the manufacturer and owner of the RAW brand of rolling papers, was found guilty of unfair competition on false allegations in a lawsuit brought by Republic Brands, owner of the rival rolling paper brand OCB. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois permanently prohibited HBI from making certain claims about its products and ordered HBI to "immediately" cease activities that did not comply with the Court's order. This is because the company's products are, after all, neither hemp nor made in Alcoy, nor are they “unrefined” and the Raw Foundation may not even exist.

If in Portugal we have the saying “you shouldn't judge a book by its cover”, in this case, we can well say that we cannot judge the shroud by its packaging. And that's not good news for RAW product aficionados.

The ridiculous situation in which HBI International, the company that owns the rolling papers of the RAW®, Elements®, Juicy Jays®, Pay-Pay® and Skunk® brands, apparently found itself involved, derives from a recent Judicial decision, motivated by its competitor, Republic Brands, which owns the brands OCB®, JOB®, ez wide®, DRUM®, Premier®, Gambler® and TOP®.

Republic Brands filed a lawsuit based on misleading marketing and commercial practices carried out by HBI International, which was confirmed by the court, by condemning HBI. Known for its fierce marketing and for having a posture in the market of devotion to the consumer, it gained market share with its products made from hemp, handcrafted in Alcoy, Spain. The brand develops, in addition to rolling papers, various types of products, ranging from clothing to skateboards and longboards.

Republic Brands alleged unfair trading practices. Court confirmed.

On January 31, 2023, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois permanently prohibited HBI from making certain claims about its products and ordered HBI to "immediately" cease manufacturing, ordering or restocking its stock with goods that do not conform to a court order.

The preliminary injunction follows the verdict of the jury that HBI, distributor of the brands of rolling papers RAW®, Elements®, Juicy Jays®, Pay-Pay® and Skunk®, developed its activity using unfair competition, also violating the Illinois Misleading Commercial Practices Act through its packaging and promotional activities.

RAW Foundation may not even exist

Accordingly, the Court prohibited HBI from further declaring, implying or implying that it operates or contributes funds or sales proceeds to a charitable entity or foundation referred to as the “RAW Foundation” or making reference to the “RAW Foundation” in text or images, because in its decision of December 6, 2022, the Court found that such a foundation did not exist, despite HBI's previous promotional claims.

The order permanently prohibits HBI and its personnel from making any statement or communication or engaging in any promotion or advertising activity that states, implies or suggests that HBI and/or RAW operate or contribute their funds or sales proceeds to a charity or foundation of any kind referred to as the “RAW Foundation” or referring to the “RAW Foundation” in text or images;

Manufactured in Alcoy? Maybe not…

In addition, HBI has been selling its rolling papers for more than a decade with references to artisanal manufacture carried out in “Alcoy, Spain” and referring to Alcoy as the “cradle of rolling papers”. HBI claimed that its RAW® papers received the “Spanish Blessing of Alcoy Paper” and affixed an “Alcoy Seal” to some of its products.

However, in a decision of 19 January 2023, the Court concluded that “HBI does not manufacture any type of rolling papers in Alcoy, Spain”. In its standing injunction, the Court prohibited HBI from stating or implying that its RAW® organic hemp products or cones are made in Alcoy and further ordered that “HBI not use a 'seal' on its packaging including the use of the word Alcoy or referring to Alcoy.”

HBI International was also prohibited from claiming that:

  • RAW Organic Hemp rolling papers are “unrefined”;
  • That RAW Organic Hemp rolling papers are made with natural hemp gum, or that the adhesive used in RAW Organic Hemp rolling papers is made from or contains hemp;
  • RAW Organic Hemp rolling papers are, or once were, the world's first or only organic (or organic hemp) rolling papers;
  • RAW Organic Hemp Rolling Paper Booklets are manufactured in Alcoy, Spain;
  • That RAW organic hemp pre-rolled rolling paper cones are manufactured in Alcoy, Spain;
  • That the bulk paper (“reels”) used to manufacture RAW Organic Hemp rolling paper products is manufactured in Spain;
  • RAW Organic Hemp rolling papers are manufactured in Alcoy, Spain, the birthplace of rolling papers;
  • HBI shall not use a “seal” on its packaging including the use of the word Alcoy or referring to Alcoy;
  • That RAW Organic Hemp rolling papers are wind-powered or wind-powered;
  • That HBI uses or has used the hemp stem core for its RAW Organic Hemp rolling papers;
  • That HBI or Joshua Kesselman invented pre-rolled rolling paper cones;
  • That OCB Organic Hemp papers are imitations, “RAWnabees”, copies or fake versions of RAW.

Em release, Republic Brands remains committed to an even playing field where all parties act in good faith and engage in honest marketing activities to customers and consumers.

 

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[Disclaimer: Please note that this text was originally written in Portuguese and is translated into English and other languages ​​using an automatic translator. Some words may differ from the original and typos or errors may occur in other languages.]

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