The Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up a request by the liquor company that makes Jack Daniel’s to stop a dog toy manufacturer’s product mimicking their signature whisky bottle in the case of Jack Daniel’s Properties Inc v VIP Products LLC.
“Bad Spaniels” resembles the liquor’s square bottle-like shape, amber color, and black-and-white label. The toy retails for about $13-$20 and says on the packaging, “This product is not affiliated with Jack Daniel Distillery.”
VIP Products, which manufactures the toy, argues that Jack Daniel’s has “waged war” against it for “having the temerity to produce a pun-filled parody.”
But Jack Daniel’s lead attorney Lisa Blatt wrote that a lower court decision provides “near-blanket protection” to humorous trademark infringement. And she said it has “broad and dangerous consequences,” pointing to children who were hospitalized after eating marijuana-infused products that mimicked candy packaging.
If VIP Products is allowed to confuse consumers with dog toys, “other funny infringers can do the same with juice boxes or marijuana-infused candy,” she wrote.
In 2007 a federal appeals court sided with a chew toy manufacturer in a similar case, when luxury bag maker Louis Vuitton sued the makers of “Chewy Vuiton.”
And in 1988, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Hustler v Falwell that satire is protected free speech.