A perplexing matchup at the United States Supreme Court ended Thursday with a clear victory for famed whiskey brand Jack Daniel’s against a scatological joke-loving dog toy maker.
The topic of discussion was a chewy toy called “Bad Spaniels,” the company sold VIP products with the famous distillery’s visual codes: square shape, black label, white lettering.
All accompanied by a joke of relative taste: if Tennessee whiskey has a 40% alcohol content, Bad Spaniels are made of “43%” dog excrement and are in danger of ending up on “Tennessee carpets.”
Alleging an attack on its image, the bourbon maker sued the VIP company under the protection of registered trademarks.
After many twists and turns, the Supreme Court took up the case to answer a very serious question.
The Nine Sages had to say that diverting the brand for comic purposes falls within the scope of freedom of expression and can therefore be considered as a violation of the rules on intellectual property.
VIP, which also sells fake cans of “canine cola,” has taken refuge behind the parody right, which authorizes copyright infringements in the cultural sphere.
The Supreme Court issued the final verdict on Thursday. “A use of a trademark as a satirical or general comment on another product is not considered non-commercial,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court in a unanimous opinion.