The term “dog poop” was echoed several times Wednesday before the highly venerable Supreme Court of the United States, whose justices seemed puzzled by a matter of subjective prudence: a dog toy that transforms the visual symbols of the iconic Jack Daniel’s whiskey brand.
This chew toy, christened “The Bad Spaniel” (Naughty Spaniel), is marketed by VIP Products. It has the distinctive shape of square, flat black distillation bottles, complete with smutty jokes.
Where Tennessee whiskey has an alcohol content of 40%, Bad Spaniels are – it is claimed – made from “43%” dog poop that ends up on “Tennessee carpets”.
Angered by the attack on its image, the bourbon maker sued VIP in the name of trademark protection. After many twists and turns, the Supreme Court decided to take it up.
The case raises “important questions of the First Amendment” to the Constitution, the guarantor of free speech, Justice Samuel Alito justified during the hearing.
The Nine Elders must indeed say whether transferring a trademark for humorous purposes can be considered within this right of self-expression and thus not being bound by the rules of intellectual property.
France Press agency
VIP, who also sells fake cans of “Canine Cola”, is sheltering behind the parody right, which authorizes copyright infringement in the cultural sphere.
“We make fun of brands that take themselves too seriously,” his attorney Bennett Cooper explained to the Supreme Court, “that see themselves as cultural icons.”
Justice Elena Kagan didn’t seem convinced. “Maybe I don’t have a sense of humor,” she asked, “but how is this a parody?” “You’re just saying that, by definition, big companies take themselves very seriously…”
For Jack Daniel’s attorney Lisa Platt, the question isn’t about understanding parody or whether it’s funny. “But it should be clear that the company holding the registered trademark did not make the joke itself,” she pleaded.
France Press agency
However, in this case, I felt there was a risk of “confusion” among customers.
This time, it was Samuel Alito who showed his doubts. “Do you really think a sane person would think that Jack Daniel’s approved of ‘this product? pretending to be full of urine and “The CEO will reply: That’s a great idea!”
Lisa Platt replied to me: “You got into law school, you’re smart, analytical…”. The judge replied, “I went to law school and didn’t learn much about law.” “But I had a dog, I know so little about dogs…”
The Supreme Court must issue its decision before June 30.
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