High-Stakes Copyright Case to be Heard by US Supreme Court: Whiskey Bottle or Puppy Toy

Abottle of whiskey or a chew toy for dogs? It's tough to mix the two up unless you've had too much from that bottle.

Nevertheless, the renowned black label whiskey company Jack Daniel's is being sued by the American distillery on the grounds that its plastic noisy toy Bad Spaniels violates copyright laws.

Moreover, it criticizes the label's use of crude humor.

The Supreme Court's nine justices will consider whether free expression takes precedence over intellectual property rights in the case that will be heard on Wednesday, which might have broader implications for how copyright law is enforced in the United States.

In its lawsuit against Arizona-based VIP Products, Jack Daniel's claims that Bad Spaniels is harming the image of Jack Daniel's by making tasteless remarks, in addition to the rectangle-shaped plastic bottle visually resembling its well-known whiskey.

Although Bad Spaniels is advertised as having a 43 percent poo content and having a 40 percent alcohol content, Tennessee whiskey's label states that it has a 40 percent alcohol content.

Indeed, everyone enjoys a good joke, “Jack Daniel's claimed in a court submission to the Supreme Court. Yet by using the hard-earned goodwill of Jack Daniel, VIP's profit-driven 'joke' confuses customers.”


When the dog toy hit the market in 2014, the Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corp.-owned spirits manufacturer filed a lawsuit. Despite winning in court initially, Jack Daniel's was unsuccessful on appeal.

Several significant American businesses supported Jack Daniel's as the case made its way to the Supreme Court, including clothing manufacturers Patagonia and Levi Strauss and food company Campbell, whose soup cans were shown in Andy Warhol's well-known paintings.

But, VIP Products is not persuaded.

“Freedom of expression starts with freedom to ridicule,” the corporation argued in a court filing. “Those who are the targets of satire, parody, or mockery—public figures, artists, famous people, or iconic brands—might sneer at negativity or a loss of control over public discourse, but such things are the price of fame.”

Before June 30, the Supreme Court must rule on the matter.

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