‘Bad dog!’ US Supreme Court rules against chew toy maker

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Thursday dominated in favor of Jack Daniel’s towards the maker of a chew toy for canines that resembles the whiskey producer’s iconic bottle.
In a 9-0 resolution, the nation’s highest court docket dominated towards VIP Merchandise, maker of the “Unhealthy Spaniels” squeaky chew toy, in a trademark dispute.
“This case is about dog toys and whiskey, two objects seldom showing in the identical sentence,” Justice Elena Kagan mentioned within the opening sentence of the unanimous opinion.
The “Unhealthy Spaniels” chew toy has the distinctive form of the distillery’s sq. whiskey bottles, however a label replete with bathroom humor.
Whereas the Tennessee whiskey boasts an alcohol content material of 40 %, “Unhealthy Spaniels,” for instance, is — allegedly — made from “43 % poo.”
Jack Daniel’s, which is owned by Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corp., took authorized motion towards VIP Merchandise in 2014, when the canine toy appeared in the marketplace.
After an preliminary court docket victory, Jack Daniel’s misplaced on attraction.
The Supreme Court docket disagreed with the appeals court docket ruling and mentioned the “Unhealthy Spaniels” chew toy was not deserving of First Modification free speech protections.
“It isn’t applicable when the accused infringer has used a trademark to designate the supply of its personal items — in different phrases, has used a trademark as a trademark,” Kagan wrote.
“That sort of use falls throughout the heartland of trademark legislation, and doesn’t obtain particular First Modification safety.”
VIP, which additionally sells faux cans of “Canine Cola,” additionally claimed it needs to be shielded behind the best to parody, which authorizes infringements of copyright within the cultural sphere.
The Supreme Court docket tossed out that argument as effectively.
“The usage of a mark doesn’t rely as noncommercial simply because it parodies, or in any other case feedback on, one other’s merchandise,” Kagan wrote.

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