SCOTUS Refuses To Hear Case Between Jack Daniels And VIP Products Over Doggy Chew Toy

from the heel! dept

The trademark dispute between Jack Daniels, famed maker of brown liquor, and VIP Products, maker of less famous doggy chew toy Bad Spaniels, has been a long and winding road. If you aren’t familiar with the case, the timeline goes like this. VIP made a dog toy that is a clear parody homage to a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey, called Bad Spaniels (get it?). Jack Daniels sent a C&D letter to VIP, claiming trademark infringement. VIP turned around and sued Jack Daniels for declaratory judgement that its product did not infringe, leading Jack Daniels to then file its own trademark lawsuit in response. The initial court ruling found for Jack Daniels, rather bizarrely claiming that VIP’s product couldn’t be expressive work, thereby protected by the First Amendment, because it wasn’t a form of traditional entertainment. On appeal, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said that ruling was made in error, vacated it, and instructed the lower court to apply the Rogers test since the product was clear parody and expressive after all. Rather than have that fight, though, Jack Daniels instead petitioned the Supreme Court to hear its case.

While I might find it interesting to see just how many doggy-related puns several SCOTUS Justices might fit into opinions on this case, however, we now have the news that the court has declined to hear the case.

As reported by Law360, the justices denied the petition filed by Jack Daniel’s last year that said the Ninth Circuit had been “egregiously misguided” when it afforded said protection to the toy, which looks like the famous whiskey but replaces the text on the label with puns.

The justices didn’t explain why they denied the petition, but it is not hugely surprising as the courts only grant a small fraction of the petitions it receives.

So, this isn’t SCOTUS saying Jack Daniels is wrong, but it does mean that the only place it is going to have this fight is the lower court that has already been instructed on appeal to apply the Rogers test. That means that Jack Daniels is now going to have to show that the use of any JD marks by VIP products is both “not artistically relevant to the underlying work” and that it “explicitly misleads consumers as to the source of the content of the work.”

And if you really think that Jack Daniels is going to be able to show that either of those are the case when it comes to a pet toy overflowing not with whiskey but with puppy puns, you may need to get your head checked. Certainly, it sounds like VIP is more than happy to have that particular fight.

In a statement to Law360, an attorney for VIP Products said the justices had made the right decision.

“The Ninth Circuit followed settled precedent, which strikes the right balance to protect expressive speech,” said David G. Bray of Dickinson Wright PLLC. We look forward to bringing this litigation to conclusion in the district court.”

Or Jack Daniels can realize its mistake and try to settle this whole mess it made. Look what you did, Jack Daniels! Look what you did! Bad corporate bully. Bad!

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Companies: jack daniel's, vip products

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Comments on “SCOTUS Refuses To Hear Case Between Jack Daniels And VIP Products Over Doggy Chew Toy”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I am particularly fond of the confusion angle, not just here, but in so many bad cases. "We’re so well recognized and respected, we could sell anything on our name alone, so no one can tell the difference between what we do and some completely unrelated thing, and this enemy of ours is using that fact to trade on out name! Our customers (or aspiring customers) are brilliant and have great taste, since they love us. Also, they are stupid because they might buy a dog toy thinking we sold or endorsed it, and for that reason alone. Besides, we were thinking of packaging our products in soft rubber squeeze bottles in the future. Yes, rubber bottles that squeak!"

This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
Bobvious says:

Previously unreleased correspondence

This correspondence has been leaked to interested parties.

"Dear Jack Daniels. I discussed this with my colleagues and they laughed until they were Husky, so I had to pour the Mastiff drink. After conferring, the question of settlement was mentioned and the option of involving our CEO, Ken. This resulted in the following brief conversation, "Do you think Kennel be interested?", "Well Alaskan, but I don’t think he’ll be very keen."

So you see, you must be neuter this as you’re barking up the wrong tree if you think we’ll roll over. You’ll be chasing your own tail and bit off more than you can chew.

Helen Dalmatian! What were you thinking?

You think you’ll Setter precedent? You’ve been drink Kintamani Kool-Aids and won’t Retriever cent. Don’t believe us? Get someone to Pinscher. Hopefully they’ll let you know it’s all a bigger Andalusian and give you a Pointer two.

Take this to the Supreme Court and we’ll Terrier part because they’ve never Herder more pathetic case in the Landseer about, and they’ll Whippet back to the lower court and Shepherd it to a more sensible outcome.

Beware what you’ve unleashed you mongrel.

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