Jack Daniel's Asks SCOTUS to Squelch Parody Dog Toy

Maker says the whiskey brand can't take a joke
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 20, 2022 9:15 AM CST
Jack Daniel's Is Not Thrilled With This Parody Dog Toy
Bottles of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey line the shelves of a liquor outlet.   (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

The company that makes Jack Daniel's is not pleased with a squeaking dog toy that parodies the whiskey's signature bottle—and it wants the Supreme Court to weigh in. Jack Daniel's has asked the justices to hear its case against the manufacturer of the plastic Bad Spaniels toy, per the AP. The high court could say as soon as Monday whether the justices will agree to do so. A number of major companies from the makers of Campbell Soup to outdoor brand Patagonia and jeans maker Levi Strauss have urged the justices to take what they say is an important case for trademark law.

The toy from VIP Products mimics the square shape of its whisky bottle as well as its black-and-white label. While the original bottle has the words “Old No. 7 brand” and “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey,” the parody proclaims: “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet.” Instead of the original's note that it is 40% alcohol by volume, the parody says it's “43% Poo by Vol." and “100% Smelly.” The back of the toy, which retails for about $13 to $20, says in small font “this product is not affiliated with Jack Daniel Distillery.”

The toy's maker says Jack Daniel's can't take a joke. “It is ironic that America’s leading distiller of whiskey both lacks a sense of humor and does not recognize when it—and everyone else—has had enough," lawyers for Arizona-based VIP Products wrote the high court. They told the justices that Jack Daniel’s has “waged war” against the company for “having the temerity to produce a pun-filled parody” of its bottle. But Jack Daniel's lead attorney, Lisa Blatt, countered: “To be sure, everyone likes a good joke. But VIP’s profit-motivated ‘joke’ confuses consumers by taking advantage of Jack Daniel’s hard-earned goodwill."

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The toy is part of a line of VIP Products called Silly Squeakers that mimic liquor, beer, wine, and soda bottles. They include Mountain Drool, which parodies Mountain Dew, and Heini Sniff'n, which parodies Heineken. A court in 2008 barred the company from selling its Budweiser parody, ButtWiper. After the company began selling its Bad Spaniels toy in 2014, Jack Daniel's told the company to stop, but VIP went to court to be allowed to continue to sell its product. Jack Daniel's won the first round in court but lost an appeal.

(More Jack Daniel's stories.)

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