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The U.S. Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments Wednesday on whether a dog toy company violated federal trademark law when it parodied Jack Daniels bottles to sell a “Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker” toy replete with smelly, excrement-themed jokes, CNN reported.
The case pits the rights of the famous distiller’s trademark against the First Amendment rights of a company — VIP Products — that has been using similar labels to sell a humorous product.
Black label and all, VIP borrows Jack Daniel’s “Old No. 7 Brand Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey” to market its “The Old No. 2 On Your Tennessee Carpet,” a reference to dog excrement, as CNN pointed out. The company also changed the liquor bottle’s “40% ALC. BY VOL. (80 PROOF)” with “43% POO BY VOL.” and “100% SMELLY.” The toy includes this disclaimer: “not affiliated with Jack Daniel Distillery.”
As CNN reported, it was not enough to keep Jack Daniels from suing the company to take the toy off the market, arguing VIP violates federal trademark law and that the toy, especially the references to dog excrement, damage its reputation because it could confuse consumers into thinking the product belongs to the “oldest registered distillery in the United States.”
The courts were mixed: a federal district court ruled in favor of Jack Daniels, finding that the toy infringed on the distiller’s trademark, but an appeals court reversed, writing that any trademark infringement was “noncommercial” and done for the sake of humor.