On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear a heated argument between Jack Daniel’s whiskey creator and the company behind a squeaky dog toy that makes fun of the liquor bottle and label.
The issue before the court is whether the toy manufacturer violated Jack Daniel’s trademarks.
VIP Products, based in Arizona, created the Bad Spaniels toy. The spoof reads: “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet.” The bottle states it is 40% alcohol by volume and bears the words “Old No. 7 brand” and “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey.”
A dog’s face is depicted in the spoof, which declares it is “43% Poo by Vol.” and “100% Smelly.”
The $20 retail toy’s box states in tiny print: “This product is not linked with Jack Daniel Distillery.”
Lynchburg, Tennessee-based Jack Daniel’s isn’t amused.
“Jack Daniel’s enjoys a good joke as much as anyone, and he loves dogs. Nevertheless, Jack Daniel’s values its clients even more, and it doesn’t want them to be misled or mistakenly associate their exquisite whiskey with feces, according to Lisa Blatt, the company’s attorney, in a filing with the Supreme Court in advance of Wednesday’s arguments. On the court’s website, audio is being streamed in real-time.
Jack Daniel’s “welcomes jokes at its expense,” according to Blatt, but the toy that VIP sells deceives consumers, benefits off “Jack Daniel’s hard-earned goodwill,” and connects its “whiskey with excrement.”
The nation’s primary trademark law, the Lanham Act, is central to the dispute. According to Jack Daniel, the dog toy violates a law that forbids using trademarks in ways that are “likely to confuse… as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of… goods.” It claims that a lower court erred in siding with VIP.
HOWEVER, Bennett E. Cooper, the attorney for VIP Products, claimed in a court document that Jack Daniel’s “seeks to utilize the Lanham Act to muzzle even VIP Products LLC’s fun dog-toy parody.”
Nike, Campbell Soup Company, Patagonia, a leading outdoor clothing company, and Levi Strauss were a few of the companies who urged the justices to support Jack Daniel’s in-court briefs.
The Biden administration also helps the business.