The dog toy resembling a JD bottle had the court’s justices chuckling as they explored how much protection should be given to those that rip off trademarks they do not own.
A dispute between Jack Daniel’s and the manufacturers of a squeaking toy for dogs that imitates whiskey’s iconic bottle, with a toilet-themed pun, has been taken to the US Supreme Court.
On Wednesday the court considered whether Jack Daniel’s trademarks were violated by the toy company.
The poop-themed dog toys resembling a bottle of alcoholic beverages had the justices laughing as they discussed how much protection should go to brands that steal from other brands.
The case involved a “Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker” toy created by VIP Products – which had many similarities to Jack Daniel’s bottles.
During the court case, it was unclear from the arguments whether Jack Daniel’s case was on the rocks or whether the makers of the Bad Spaniels were in trouble.
Justice Samuel Alito was skeptical of Jack Daniel’s arguments.
“Would anyone think Jack Daniel’s would have approved the use of this mark?” he asked at one point, suggesting the toy was an unmistakable parody and legally acceptable.
The firm’s attorney tried to counter Justice Alito’s claims about his knowledge of dog toys. Justice Alito replied: “I owned a dog. I know something about dogs.” The court was often visited by Zeus, his late springer spaniel Zeus.
But, during arguments at least one justice said that she did not understand the humor behind the toy but was more willing to rule in its favour.
Justice Elena Kagan stated: “Maybe my sense of humor is lacking. What’s the joke?”
Justice Kagan said that the toy was simply an “ordinary product”, trading on the appearance of the bottles.
Arizona-based VIP Products has been selling its Bad Spaniels toy since 2014 and has since added to its own Silly Squeakers line of chew toys which mimic liquor, beer, wine and soda bottles.
The most prominent parody is the “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey”, which has the words: “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet. ”
While the Jack Daniel’s bottles have the words: “Old No. 7 brand” and “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey. ”
The original bottle notes it is 40% alcohol by volume and the parody features a dog’s face and says it is “43% Poo by Vol.” and “100% Smelly. ”
The toy, which sells for around 20 US dollars (PS16. 23), also notes in small font: “This product is not affiliated with Jack Daniel Distillery,” on its packaging.
Funny or serious, Jack Daniel was not amused.
“Jack Daniel’s loves dogs and appreciates a good joke as much as anyone,” wrote the company’s lawyer Lisa Blatt in a filing with the high court. “But Jack Daniel’s likes its customers even more and doesn’t want them confused or associating its fine whiskey with dog poop. “
Ms. Blatt claimed that VIP Products are deceptive and that customers get a false impression. She also claimed that Jack Daniel’s goodwill is a profit for the company.
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