Court ready to hear dog toy suit


Several iconic brands have sided with the manufacturer of Jack Daniel’s whiskey in the trademark dispute

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule as soon as Monday whether whiskey brand will hear Jack Daniel’s trademark infringement case against dog toy maker VIP Products, whose “Bad Spaniels” parody squeaky toy mimics both the shape and design of the distillery’s iconic bottle.

The dog toy version of the bottle replaces Jack Daniel’s “Old no 7 brand” and “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey” of “The old No. 2 on your Tennessee carpet,” stretching the fecal word game further by replacing “43% poop by volume.” and “100% smelly” for the whiskey’s 40% ABV and 100 proof labeling.

The whiskey manufacturer’s parent company, Brown-Forman Corp., has urged the Supreme Court to consider the case and is insisting that a lower court ruling in favor of VIP provides for “near blanket protection” parodies that infringe trademarks. The offensive toys “confuses consumers by taking advantage of Jack Daniel’s hard-earned goodwill,” and could have such a confusion “broad and dangerous consequences”, Brown-Forman’s lead attorney Lisa Blatt wrote.

If a dog toy company can replicate the markings on Jack Daniel’s packaging, “Other funny offenders may do the same with juice boxes or marijuana-infused candies,” Blatt argued, citing several instances of children accidentally consuming cannabis edibles packaged to resemble popular candy brands.

VIP’s lawyers disagreed, noting: “It’s ironic that America’s greatest distiller of whiskey has no sense of humor and doesn’t know when he – and everyone else – has had enough.” The beverage company just has “warned” against the dog toy maker “have the guts to make a parody full of puns” of his container, they argued.

VIP has been selling the squeaker Bad Spaniels since 2014. While Jack Daniel’s took them to court and initially won, the decision was reversed in VIP’s favor on appeal, and the company’s first attempt to get the case taken up by the Supreme Court , was rejected .

Several other popular brands, including Campbell Soup and Levi Strauss jeans, are supporting the distiller in his attempt to convince the Supreme Court of the importance of the case this time around. There’s precedent — a court in 2008 banned VIP from selling its Budweiser imitation ButtWiper — but in 2007 a federal appeals court sided with another dog toy manufacturer, Haute Diggity Dog, which denied its right to sell defended “Chew Vuitton” chewing handbag toy against trademark owner Louis Vuitton.

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