The Supreme Court Agrees to Review Jack Daniels Dog Toy CaseDecember 2, 2022

November 21st, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a trademark dispute between Jack Daniel’s and the dog toy company VIP Products. VIP Products creates a dog toy line called “Silly Squeakers” which are squeaking toys that look like the Jack Daniel’s square-shaped bottle of Old No. 7 Whiskey but replace the Jack Daniel’s wording. VIP contends that these products are a parody and fair use of Jack Daniel’s whiskey product, but Jack Daniel’s believes that the use of their trademark design and trade dress of the whiskey product infringes and dilutes the mark.

In 2018, a District Court heard the case and ruled in favor of Jack Daniel’s stating the “Silly Squeakers” could result in consumer confusion and dilute the Jack Daniel’s trademarked design. In 2020, the Ninth Circuit disagreed with the lower court’s decision believing that VIP’s product was an expressive work protected by the First Amendment and would not dilute the trademark. Jack Daniel’s filed a writ of certiorari and many other beer, wine, and spirits companies filed amicus briefs in support of Jack Daniel’s position, showing a concern within the alcohol industry regarding other parody items that could dilute other trademarks. Many of these briefs discuss the concern with controlling and regulating products and advertisements to only adults over 21 years old. Jack Daniel’s contends that due to the target audience and substantial resources to cultivate its image, “Jack Daniel’s has a strong interest in protecting its trademarks and trade dress from associate with juvenile bathroom humor.” Jack Daniel’s is not the only alcohol company to be copied by VIP Products; Stella Artois beer (“Smella R-Crotches”), Heineken beer (“Heini Sniff’n”), Guinness beer (“Pissness”), and Mountain Dew soda (“Mountain Drool”) have also been parodied in dog toy form. The Supreme Court is expected to reach a final decision next year.

Ashley Holland is an intellectual property attorney in the MVS Biotechnology and Chemical Practice Group. To learn more, visit our MVS website, or contact Ashley directly via email.

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