Trademark Infringement Issue: Jack Daniels Vs. Bad Spaniels
Jack Daniel’s is known for its Tennessee whiskey, but another company is trying to take advantage of the alcohol maker’s goodwill by creating parody pet products that are tarnishing the Jack Daniel’s name. A dog toy that looks like a bottle of popular whiskey has got the alcohol maker doggone mad.
The Bad Spaniels dog toy looks just like a bottle of Jack Daniels’ whiskey, with its black-and-white label and amber-colored liquor. It also trivializes the alcohol by adding “poop humor.” The whiskey bottle has the words “Old No. 7 brand” and “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey.” The parody dog toy makes fun of these slogans by instead using the terms “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet,” “43% Poo by Vol.,” and “100% Smelly.”
The dog toy sells for $13 to $20. While the packaging notes in small font that “This product is not affiliated with Jack Daniel Distillery,” it can still be confusing for customers. That’s why Jack Daniel’s is waging war with the dog toy manufacturer, VIP Products, which is based in Arizona. Jack Daniel’s has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the company, arguing that the toys are a violation of federal trademark rights. In addition, these toys are not funny, tarnishing the company’s brand. The toy maker defends itself, alleging how ironic it is that America’s leading distiller of whiskey lacks a sense of humor.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case and will likely do so early next year. In 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of VIP Products, as their toys are protected under the First Amendment. Jack Daniel’s has had enough, though, and is looking to seek further review from the Supreme Court. Companies such as Levi Strauss and Campbell’s Soup Co. are supporting Jack Daniel’s in its lawsuit, hoping to get clarification on trademark laws and when parodies are allowed.
A lower court decision offers protection to humorous trademark infringement but it comes with dangerous consequences. For example, in the past, children have been hospitalized after eating marijuana-infused products that looked like candy.
If VIP Products is allowed to confuse consumers with dog toys, other companies will try to do the same with other products. The Jack Daniel’s liquor bottle is not the company’s only parody product. The Silly Squeakers mimic other beverages such as Mountain Drool, which parodies Mountain Dew, and Heini Sniff’n, which parodies Heineken.
Learn More About Copyright Infringement
Sometimes jokes go a little too far, especially in the marketing world. A company should not be able to profit off another company’s products. When a parody has the ability to confuse customers, it can make companies hopping mad and force them to file a lawsuit.
Protect your company and its products. Seek legal help from Orlando trademark & copyright lawyer B.F. Godfrey from Godfrey Legal. We can provide comprehensive and informative advice. To schedule a consultation, call (407) 890-0023 or fill out the online form.