Lakeland marijuana tracking system maker sues Ft. Lauderdale rival over publicity materials, putdowns

A Lakeland company behind Colorado’s tracking system for marijuana plants has accused a competitor of deceptive business practices.

Lawyers for Franwell say BioTrackTHC, based in Ft. Lauderdale, lies in publicity material and lies about Franwell in the media and communications to state regulators.

The purpose, according to documents filed by Franwell in federal court May 11, is to interfere with the Lakeland company’s $1.5 million Colorado contract and to sway officials to choose BioTrack for a competitive contract in Jamaica.

The tussle reveals growing competition in America’s blooming marijuana industry and reminds businesses and investors they must especially vet claims for truth, as with any emerging industry.

Beside Franwell, Tampa Bay is home to a crop of entrepreneurs seeking land and market share opportunities even before Florida legalizes the smokable, edible plant parts. 

The state legalizing marijuana for at least medical purposes in the next couple of years is a forgone conclusion to these entrepreneurs.

Representatives from BioTrack, which made a similar system used by Washington state and New Mexico, deny Franwell's accusations.

"We believe the case is without merit, we strenuously deny the claims made against us and we shall vigorously defend ourselves in any court of competent jurisdiction," BioTrack general counsel Barry Gainsburg said in a statement May 15.

Franwell requests the court to stop BioTrack from calling its system patented, the largest of its kind, the “only true” one of its kind and the only one that can “prevent bad product from getting onto retail shelves.”

The Lakeland company wants the court to destroy BioTrack’s so-called false advertisements. BioTrack shouldn’t call its system patented if only components of the system are patented, Franwell lawyers argue in the court documents.

Franwell seeks punitive damages, plus money from BioTrack to pay for lost market share, sales, goodwill and profits while forcing the company to put more resources into promotion.

BioTrack CFO Patrick Vo and BioTrack CEO Steven Siegel are also named defendants in the lawsuit. Each man has made similar statements that Franwell disputes in publicity materials, on TV and in news articles.