Jack Daniel's is set to take manufacturer VIP Products to court over a dog toy the company created that parodies the alcohol company's bottle, according to legal documents seen by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE. Jack Daniel's is arguing that the company violated federal trademark law by creating a product in the likeness of the Jack Daniel's bottle to sell its “Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker” toy that is also emboldened with a poop-themed joke. The case is a landmark one that could redefine how the court applies constitutional free speech rights to trademark law.
The squeaky toy created by VIP products copies the general shape of the Jack Daniel's bottle and even uses a similar font and black label. Additionally, VIP used Jack Daniel's “Old No. 7 Brand Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey” and reworked it to say, "“Old No. 7 Brand Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey” in a reference to dog excrement. It also changed the liquor company's "40% ALC. BY VOL." bottle text to “43% POO BY VOL.” and “100% SMELLY.”
The toy has a tag on it that states that it is not affiliated with Jack Daniel Distillery. However, Jack Daniel's still feels the toy should be taken off shelves.
The liquor company is arguing that the toy maker violated federal trademark law and that its references to dog excrement is damaging to its reputation.
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"In designing the Bad Spaniels parody, VIP borrowed only enough to make the joke work," said VIP products in publicly available legal documents. It added that it only included "some decent similarities" because “we wanted it to be a parody of the Jack Daniel’s bottle.”
Depending on the rulings, trademark protections could be stripped, and entities may legally be able to us registered marks not belonging to them so long as they do so in a way that expresses humor. according to CNN.
Currently, a district court ruled in favor of Jack Daniel’s and found that the toy infringed on the tradmark of the liquor company. However, VIP Products later appealed and courts sided with VIP which began a court-created test that determines is potential trademark infringement in non-commercial instances can be constitutionally protected.
Currently, the court argues that VIP Products' use of the Jack Daniel's trademark is non-commercial and that it was done humorously. This is why it is currently protected by the First Amendment.
The trial is set to be heard in court this week.
The news comes months after Jack Daniel's teamed up with Coca-Cola to launch the Jack and Coke cocktail as a branded, ready-to-drink (RTD) pre-mixed cocktail option. Titled "Jack Daniel's and Coco-Cola RTD", the can and packaging bring together the iconic logos of both brands that are set against a jet black backdrop.
According to Coca-Cola, the latest drink was inspired by the classic bar cocktail and will be made with Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey and Coca-Cola. With its initial launch planned for Mexico in late 2022, the beverage will be available in markets around the world. In addition, a zero-sugar version of the beverage will also be made available.
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