Brand Identity – A Case About a Silly Dog Toy
The Supreme Court is considering a case about poop jokes: Jack Daniel’s vs VIP Products. The case is about whether VIP Products infringed upon the whiskey maker’s trademarked bottle shape and label when it sold a toy named “Bad Spaniels”. There is copy on the bottle about a dog dropping “the old No.2 on your Tennessee carpet.”
Sounds like a pretty silly case already!
“Jack Daniel’s loves dogs and appreciates a good joke as much as anyone. But Jack Daniel’s likes its customers even more and doesn’t want them confused or associating its fine whiskey with dog poop.”
The real question is how to balance the needs of the marketplace with the demands of free speech. Trademark law in our industry, which gives companies an exclusive right to use the imagery associated with their brand to market their products, necessarily limits free speech.
Federal trademark law sometimes permits companies to sell products that parody a famous trademark – you would think that this is the case here. Most consumers are smart enough to tell the difference between an authentic product and a joke seeking to mock or ridicule that product.
There was also a previous case Louis Vuitton v. Haute Diggity Dog, which involved dog toys make to look like handbags. But they didn’t associate their product with feces.
It will be interesting to see what happens, but it is unlikely that a judge will come up with a better way of protecting both companies’ interests. I certainly wouldn’t want a parody of MEDiAHEAD going around!
You can learn more about the case here.
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