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April 13, 2023
A dispute between Jack Daniel’s and Arizona based company VIP Products over a dog toy with strong similarities to a Jack Daniel’s bottle with a poop pun has made its way to The Supreme Court.
The court had a discussion on Wednesday as to whether the toy breached the trademarks of Jack Daniel’s.
Justices did see the funny side of the poop-themed dog toy as they discussed whether it should be given protection against any legal action by Jack Daniel’s.
The case revolves around a “Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker” which bears resemblance to a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.
Justice Samuel Alito expressed his doubts about arguments put forward by Jack Daniels.
“Could any reasonable person think that Jack Daniel’s had approved this use of the mark?” he asked at one point, hinting that the toy was a parody.
A lawyer for Jack Daniel’s questioned Alito’s knowledge of dogs, to which he responded “I had a dog. I know something about dogs.”
Another Justice said she is inclined to rule in favour of Jack Daniel’s as she can’t find the humor in the product.
Justice Elena Kagan said: “Maybe I just have no sense of humor. But what’s the parody?”
Justice Kagan went onto say that the toy is an “ordinary commercial product” trading on the look of a Jack Daniel’s bottle.
On the dog toy it reads “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey” toy, which includes the wording: “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet.”
The Jack Daniel’s bottles have the words: “Old No. 7 brand” and “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey.”
The Jack Daniel’s bottle states it is 40% alcohol by volume and the VIP Products dog toy has a picture of a dog’s face and says it is “43% Poo by Vol.” and “100% Smelly.”
The toy retails at $20 and says in small font that “This product is not affiliated with Jack Daniel Distillery,” on its packaging.
Lisa Blatt, who is representing Jack Daniel’s, said that the company have nothing against dogs, but doesn’t believe this product is good for their image.
“Jack Daniel’s loves dogs and appreciates a good joke as much as anyone.”
“But Jack Daniel’s likes its customers even more and doesn’t want them confused or associating its fine whiskey with dog poop.”
Blatt concluded by saying that VIP Products are selling mis-leading products which profit from “Jack Daniel’s hard-earned goodwill.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: LUKE MOCHERMAN
PHOTO CREDIT: THE NEW YORK TIMES