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dated: 2022-11-20 13:14:24 .
WASHINGTON (AP) – The company that makes Jack Daniel’s is howling with rage over a squeaky dog toy that parodies the iconic whiskey bottle. Now the liquor company is barking at the Supreme Court’s door.
Jack Daniel’s has asked the judiciary to hear its case against plastic toy maker Bad Spaniels. The High Court could say on Monday whether the judges agree. A host of major companies, from Campbell soup maker to outdoor brand Patagonia to jeans maker Levi Strauss, have asked the justices to take up what they believe is a landmark trademark law case.
The toy that drives Jack Daniel’s so damn crazy mimics the square shape of its whiskey bottle, as well as the black-and-white label and amber-colored drink, and adds what it calls “poo humor.” While the word “Old No.” is written on the original bottle. 7 Brand” and “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey,” the parody announces: “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet. Instead of the original noting that it’s 40% alcohol by volume, the parody says it’s “43% Poo by volume.” and “100% Stinky”.
On the back of the toy, which retails for about $13 to $20, it says in small print, “This product is not affiliated with the Jack Daniel’s distillery.”
The toy maker says Jack Daniel’s doesn’t take pranks. “It’s ironic that America’s leading whiskey distiller has no sense of humor and can’t tell when he — and everyone else — has had enough,” Arizona lawyers for VIP Products wrote in the High Court. They told the judges that Jack Daniel’s was “at war” with the company because it had “the audacity to produce a pun-filled parody” of its bottle.
But Jack Daniel’s lead attorney, Lisa Blatt, made no bones about the company’s position in her filing.
“Of course everyone loves a good joke. But VIP’s profiteering ‘joke’ confuses consumers by exploiting Jack Daniel’s hard-earned goodwill,” she wrote for Brown-Forman Corp. based in Louisville, Kentucky, the parent company of Jack Daniel’s.
Blatt wrote that the lower court’s decision offers “almost complete protection” for humorous trademark infringement. She said it has “far-reaching and dangerous implications,” pointing to children who have been hospitalized after eating marijuana-laced products that mimicked candy wrappers.
If VIP Products is allowed to confuse consumers with dog toys, “other ridiculous infringers can do the same with juice boxes or marijuana-laced candy,” Blatt wrote.
The toy is part of a line of VIP products called Silly Squeakers that mimic liquor, beer, wine and soda bottles. These include Mountain Drool, which parodies Mountain Dew, and Heini Sniff’n, which parodies Heineken. In 2008, a court barred the company from selling its Budweiser fake ButtWiper.
After the company began selling its Bad Spaniels toy in 2014, Jack Daniel’s asked the company to stop doing so, but VIP went to court to be allowed to continue selling its products. Jack Daniel’s won the first round in court, but lost the appeal. The case reached the Supreme Court at an earlier stage, but the judges did not bite.
Bad Spaniels aren’t the only parody puppy toy that has drawn the ire of the brand it imitates. Luxury bag maker Louis Vuitton is suing the makers of Chewy Vuitton over their plush dog toy. In 2007, a federal appeals court sided with Nevada-based chew toy maker Haute Diggity Dog. Louis Vuitton did not appeal to the Supreme Court.
The subject is Jack Daniel’s Properties Inc. v. VIP Products LLC, 22-148.
Jessica Gresko, The Associated Press
The judges asked to hear a dispute over dog toys. will it bite
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