The firm that produces Jack Daniel’s is enraged about a dog toy that mimics the whiskey’s iconic bottle and squeaks. Now, the booze corporation is knocking on the Supreme Court’s door.
Jack Daniel’s has requested that the courts consider its case against the plastic Bad Spaniels toy producer. As early as Monday, the Supreme Court could announce whether the justices will concur. Several prominent corporations, including Campbell Soup, Patagonia, and Levi Strauss, have requested the Supreme Court to hear what they consider to be an important trademark law matter.
The toy that has Jack Daniel’s so enraged replicates the square shape of its whisky bottle, as well as its black-and-white label and amber-colored liquid, with the addition of “poop humor.” The real bottle reads “Old No. 7 brand” and “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey,” whereas the parody label reads “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet.” Instead of noting that it has 40% alcohol by volume, the spoof states that it is “43% Poo by Vol” and “100% Smelly.”
The toy is priced between $13 and $20, and the box states, in fine print, “This product is not linked with Jack Daniel Distillery.”
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“Sense of humor” vs the protection of trademarks
According to the manufacturer of the toy, Jack Daniel’s cannot take a joke. The attorneys for Arizona-based VIP Products wrote to the high court, “It is amusing that America’s greatest whiskey distiller lacks a sense of humor and can not recognize when it — and everyone else — have had enough.” They informed the judges that Jack Daniel’s declared war on the corporation for “having the audacity to create a pun-filled imitation” of its bottle.
In her petition, the primary attorney for Jack Daniel’s, Lisa Blatt, made no secret of the company’s viewpoint.
“Certainly, everyone enjoys a good joke. But VIP’s profit-driven “joke” confuses customers by capitalizing on Jack Daniel’s well-earned reputation “She wrote for the Louisville, Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corporation, which is the parent firm of Jack Daniel’s.
Blatt argued that a lower court ruling gives “near blanket protection” against the infringement of amusing trademarks. She said that it had “vast and hazardous repercussions,” citing the children who were hospitalized after consuming marijuana-infused items disguised as sweets.
If VIP Products is permitted to deceive customers with dog toys, “other clever infringers can do the same with juice boxes or marijuana-infused chocolates,” said Blatt.
The toy is part of a brand of VIP Products called Silly Squeakers that imitates alcohol, beer, and soda bottles. Mountain Drool is a parody of Mountain Dew, while Heini Sniff’n is a parody of Heineken. In 2008, a judge prohibited the firm from selling ButtWiper, a spoof of Budweiser.
In 2014, after the firm began selling its Bad Spaniels toy, Jack Daniel’s demanded that the company stop, but VIP went to court to be permitted to continue selling its product. Jack Daniel’s won the initial court case but lost the appeal. The matter was brought before the Supreme Court at an earlier stage, but the judges were unmoved.
Bad Spaniels is not the only satirical puppy toy to provoke the ire of the original manufacturer. Louis Vuitton filed a lawsuit against the producers of Chewy Vuitton’s plush purse dog toys. In 2007, a federal appeals court agreed with the creators of the chew toy, Haute Diggity Dog of Nevada. Louis Vuitton did not file a Supreme Court appeal.
Case number 22-148 is Jack Daniel’s Properties Inc. v. VIP Products LLC.