(RoyalPatriot.com )- A case is heading to court because the Phoenix-based VIP Products LLC released a parody of the Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee whiskey bottle.
The company features dog poop-themed toys. “The funny” they produced was making a change where a label reading “the Old No. 2, on your Tennessee Carpet.” The issue is the trademark rights of the whiskey brand versus legal protections for creative expression.
The United States Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the dispute between Jack Daniel’s and a dog accessories manufacturer on Wednesday. It centers on a spoof chew toy that resembles the distiller’s iconic black-label whiskey bottle.
When a lower court ruled that the “Bad Spaniels” vinyl chew toy constituted an “expressive work” protected by the First Amendment, Louisville, Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corp, owner of Jack Daniel’s Properties Inc, appealed the decision.
What’s at stake here is whether or not VIP Products, and ultimately others, will be protected from liability for the supposed damage its chew toy creates to Jack Daniel’s, including but not limited to the potential for customers to be misled into associating the product with the whiskey maker and the potential for the product to tarnish the company’s famous trademark.
Supporters of the 1866-founded whiskey company in Lynchburg, Tennessee, say the case has enormous implications for the capacity of American corporations to protect their names and images.
On the other side of the argument was a group of 2,300 writers who said that if Jack Daniels won, it would have a “catastrophic chilling effect” on free speech because people would be afraid to speak their views for fear of being sued.
The organization briefed the judges that if authors feared legal repercussions, their fictional characters may stop using iPhones, McDonald’s, and Disneyland.
In 2020, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco favored VIP Products. According to the court, the Bad Spaniels toy qualifies as an “expressive work” and may be protected against Jack Daniel’s trademark infringement action under the First Amendment.
Since Jack Daniel’s name was used not just to sell dog toys but also “to communicate a funny message,” the 9th Circuit found that VIP Product’s use of the brand was noncommercial and had not damaged the distiller’s unique mark.
We should have a decision by the month’s end of June.