Jack Daniel’s Whiskey has a bone to pick with a dog toy company, and the Supreme Court on Monday he agreed to hear his case.
VIP Products, an Arizona-based company, makes dog toys that resemble Jack Daniel’s iconic whiskey bottles. “Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker” toys are labeled “43% Poo by Vol.” and “Old No. 2 on your Tennessee rug.” Jack Daniel’s argues that the toys are a violation of federal trademark rights and tarnish the company’s brand.
the company said in a presentation contrary to the the motion that the products are a “playful parodic tradition” that they have carried on for over 50 years with a variety of toys including Topps and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s Wacky Packages trading cards.
“It is ironic that America’s leading whiskey distiller lacks a sense of humor and fails to recognize when he, and everyone else, has had enough,” the letter states. “VIP has never sold whiskey or other edibles, or used “Jack Daniel’s” in any way (humorously or not). He just imitated enough of the iconic bottle for people to get the joke.”
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2020 ruled in favor of VIP Products, saying its toys are protected by the First Amendment, prompting Jack Daniel’s to seek further review from the Supreme Court.
Several companies, including Campbell’s Soup Co. and Levi Strauss, have filed motions in support of Jack Daniel’s urging the high court to clarify trademark laws and when they allow such parodies.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has decided to hear this case,” said Courtney Armor, legal director of the Distilled Spirits Council, a trade group that represents major spirits brands, including Jack Daniel’s parent company, Brown-Forman. “The alcoholic beverage industry has long worked to ensure that our products are advertised responsibly, and trademark infringers can seriously jeopardize these efforts.”
Lost VIP Products a similar case in 2008 when Anheuser-Busch sued the company over a toy labeled “ButtWiper.”
The high court is likely to hear arguments in Jack Daniel’s case early next year.