Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Jack Daniel’s in Trademark Fight Over Dog Toys
The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of whiskey maker Jack Daniel’s in a trademark dispute over “poop-themed” dog toys that resemble the company’s famous whiskey bottles. The court ruled 9-0 against VIP Products, which argued that its toys, including the “Bad Spaniels” toy shaped like a whiskey bottle, are protected under the First Amendment as obvious parodies. However, Justice Elena Kagan said VIP’s alleged infringement of the Jack Daniel’s trademark “falls within the heartland of trademark law, and does not receive special First Amendment protection.” The court returned the case to lower courts for further proceedings.
Jack Daniel’s, describing VIP’s toys as “poop-themed dog toys,” argued that there is a likelihood of confusion, meaning the products violate trademark law. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of VIP in 2020, prompting Jack Daniel’s to seek further review from the Supreme Court. Various companies, including Nike, Campbell Soup, and American Apparel, filed briefs supporting Jack Daniel’s, citing the threat to trademark protections for iconic brands. Meanwhile, free speech advocates, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, filed briefs supporting VIP, citing the importance of people being able to comment on and mock famous brands.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is a narrow one, returning the case to lower courts for further proceedings. However, it suggests that parodies of iconic brands may not be protected under the First Amendment in cases where the alleged infringement falls within the “heartland of trademark law.” The ruling is likely to have implications for other cases involving parodies of famous brands.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Jack Daniel’s in its trademark dispute with VIP Products is a reminder of the importance of protecting the value of iconic brands. While free speech is important, the court’s decision suggests that parodies of famous brands may not always be protected under the First Amendment. The ruling is likely to have implications for other cases involving parodies of famous brands, particularly those that may be deemed to infringe on trademarks.