U.S. Supreme Court chews on Jack Daniel’s dog toy dispute

Washington –

A dispute between Jack Daniel’s and the maker of a squeaky dog ​​toy modeled after the signature bottle of whiskey gave the Supreme Court plenty of food for thought on Wednesday.

At issue in court was whether the toy maker had infringed the Jack Daniel’s trademark, and the judge was largely doing what was best rather than picking up on the humor and puns of the toy poop.

Still, three of the judges are completely or almost completely silent, so it’s clear from the debate whether the Jack Daniel’s case is in jeopardy or whether the bad spaniel toy makers were at fault. It wasn’t.

Judge Samuel Alito was skeptical of Jack Daniel’s claims. “Can any reasonable person think that Jack Daniels approved the use of this mark?” suggested that there was

When a lawyer for the company challenged the judge’s knowledge of dog toys, Alito replied, “I used to have dogs. I know something about dogs.” His late springer spaniel Zeus visited the royal court from time to time.

But Judge Elena Kagan seemed ready to rule against the toy manufacturer. rice field. “But what is parody?”

Cagan often displayed a cool wit in court and in her writings, suggesting that the toy was merely a “common commodity” traded in the appearance of a liquor company’s bottle.

Arizona-based VIP Products has been selling Bad Spaniel toys since 2014. This is part of his Silly Squeakers series of chew toys that mimic liquor, beer, wine and soda bottles. They include Mountain Drool parodying Mountain Dew and Heini Sniff’n parodying Heineken.

The Jack Daniel’s bottle says “Old No. 7 brand” and “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey,” but the toy proclaims “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet.” The original bottle states that the alcohol content is 40% of his. The parody features a dog face and says “43% Poo by Vol.” and “100% stinky”.

Selling for about $20, the toy packaging says in small font, “This product is not affiliated with Jack Daniel’s Distillery.”

Lynchburg, Tennessee-based Jack Daniels isn’t amused.

The company’s attorney, Lisa Bratt, said, “Jack Daniels loves dogs and enjoys a joke more than anyone else. But Jack Daniels loves his customers more and doesn’t want to confuse or confuse them with fine whiskey and dogs.” I don’t want to be associated with the poop,” he wrote. with the High Court.

Bratt wrote that Jack Daniel’s “jokes are welcome, but VIP merchandise misleads customers and benefits from Jack Daniel’s hard-won goodwill”, tying its “whiskey to excrement”. ing.

At the center of the lawsuit is the Lanham Act, the country’s main trademark law. It prohibits the use of trademarks in a manner that “may cause confusion as to the origin, sponsorship, or endorsement of goods.” Jack Daniels says that’s what dog toys do, stating that lower courts upheld his VIP erroneously.

But VIP Products attorney Bennett E. Cooper told the judge that Jack Daniels “seeks to use the Lanham Act to silence even VIP Products LLC’s playful dog toy parody.” I was.

Nike, Campbell’s Soup Company, outdoor brand Patagonia, and jeans maker Levi Strauss all urged judges to side with Jack Daniels in court. The company also has the backing of the Biden administration.


Associated Press reporter Marc Sherman contributed to this report.

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