Supreme Court Hears Case of Whiskey Maker Versus Doggie Chew Toy

March 22, 2023

The Supreme Court on Wednesday was hearing arguments in a trademark dispute between world-famous whiskey maker Jack Daniel’s and the manufacturer of a dog’s chew toy, called “Bad Spaniels.”

The highest court in the U.S. agreed to hear the case of Jack Daniel’s Properties Inc v VIP Products LLC in November.

The “Bad Spaniels” toy resembles the liquor’s square bottle-like shape, amber color, and black-and-white label. And Jack Daniel’s argues that the toy infringes upon its trademarks. 

While the original bottle has the words “Old No. 7 brand” and “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey,” the toy proclaims, “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet.” The original bottle notes it is 40% alcohol by volume. The toy features a dog’s face and says it’s “43% Poo by Vol.” and “100% Smelly.”

Further, the toy, which retails for about $13-$20, says on the packaging, “This product is not affiliated with Jack Daniel Distillery.”

But the whiskey maker, which asserts that it “loves dogs and appreciates a good joke as much as anyone,” also argued in its Supreme Court filing that it “likes its customers even more, and doesn’t want them confused or associating its fine whiskey with dog poop.”

Jack Daniel’s attorney Lisa Blatt goes on to assert that the toy maker is profiting off of her company’s “hard-earned goodwill” by associating its product “with excrement.” 

At the heart of the case is the United States’ major trademark law, called the Lanham Act, which prohibits using a trademark in a way that’s “likely to cause confusion, or if the dilution of a famous mark is likely to occur.” 

The attorney for toy maker VIP Products told the Justices in a court filing that Jack Daniels “seeks to use the Lanham Act to muzzle even VIP Products LLC’s playful dog-toy parody.”

On the other side of the argument, however, Jack Daniels is being backed by consumer giants such as NikeCampbell Soup and  Levi Strauss. They and others—along with the Biden Administration—urged the Justices in court filings to side with the whiskey maker.

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

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