The United States Supreme Court has sided with whiskey brand Jack Daniel’s in its lawsuit against a company that sells a toy that looks like dog poop.
The dog’s toy reads “Old No. 2 on your carpet in Tennessee,” while the famous bottle of whiskey reads “Old No. 7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey.”
In a unanimous decision Thursday, the US Supreme Court found the game to constitute trademark infringement.
The unusual case sparked laughter in court and jokes in public.
Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the court’s opinion, noted, “This case concerned dog toys and whiskey, two items that rarely appear in the same sentence.”
At another point, she asked the court observers to “remember what the bottle looked like (or better yet, get a bottle from where you keep the liquor; it might be there).”
The ruling rejects an appeal that concludes the game was a “non-commercial” parody, subject to First Amendment protections for free speech, and sends the case back to the lower courts.
The Whiskey Makers Dossier argued that Arizona-based VIP Products LLC was profiting from “hard-won Jack Daniel’s goodwill” and confusing consumers, forcing them to “associate Jack Daniel’s whiskey with foolishness”. The game costs around $20 (£16).
The liquor bottle says “40% alcohol by volume,” while the “Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker” chew toy says “43% poop by volume” and “100% stink.” The package contains a label indicating that it does not belong to Jack Daniel’s.
The company also produces other similar toys that are similar to other well-known liquor and soda brands.
Lawyers for the Tennessee Whiskey Company said they found no humor in the pun.
Jack Daniel’s attorney, Lisa Platt, writes: “Jack Daniel loves dogs and appreciates good banter as much as anyone. But Jack Daniel loves his customers more, and he doesn’t want to confuse them or associate sweet whiskey with dog filth,” Jack Daniel writes. Attorney Lisa Platt. in court documents.
The Biden administration and big brands — like Nike, Campbell Soup, Patagonia and Levi Strauss — have urged the judges to side with Jack Daniel’s.
In a statement after the ruling, a spokesperson for Jack Daniels said the company was pleased with the outcome.
“Jack Daniel’s is a brand renowned for its quality and craftsmanship, and when friends around the world see the label, they know it represents something they can count on,” said Svend Jansen.
“We will continue to support efforts to protect the goodwill and strength of this iconic brand.”
This case is the second intellectual property law the court has ruled on in recent months.