Dog day in court: Jack Daniels sues pet company over squeaky toy
WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Jack Daniels is suing the makers of a dog toy, accusing them of putting their paws all over their brand.
This ‘spirited’ case made it all the way to the Supreme Court - and now the dog toy company is over a barrel.
If you think the lawsuit sounds frivolous well, you don’t know Jack.
“It can seem like sour grapes that Jack Daniels just can’t take a joke, but there’s a little more to it,” said trademark lawyer Michael Kondoudis
Some believe the Jack Daniel’s case can be *distilled* into a pretty clear argument.
“The defendant is essentially selling products that are mimicking their name. And the bottle shape, both of which are trademarks. And so that equals consumer confusion, which is a classic form of trademark infringement,” said Kondoudis.
But the defense argues the toy is an obvious parody - something that is usually protected by free speech.
What doesn’t make that argument fool *proof* is the fact that they’re turning a profit on the toys.
“When you move beyond just parody and you move on to commercialization, where you actually making a line of products and selling them for profit,” said Kondoudos. “The line gets blurry as to what is commentary and protected versus what is just ordinary commercial activity, which is subject to trademark protection.”
This isn’t the first time there’s been a legal dog-fight over a chew toy.
Back in 2007, a court of appeals in Richmond, Virgina sided with a pet company over their “Chewy Vuitton” toy.
A judge in that case, Paul Niemeyer wrote, “The dog toy irreverently presents haute couture as an object for casual canine destruction. The satire is unmistakable.”
If the high court rules the same way, it’ll be harder to leash toys like this in the future.
“It’s going to be harder for companies to protect their trademarks. And it’s going to excuse a little bit of consumer confusion,” said Kondoudis.
Oral arguments will be heard on the case Wednesday - so this isn’t the end of this tail.
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