The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Jack Daniel’s favor on a long-running trademark case on Thursday, according to Reuters. The iconic whiskey distillery had alleged that the maker of a liquor-themed dog toy tarnished the Jack Daniel’s brand by imitating its likeness.
The decision was unanimous with a 9-0 vote.
Bad Spaniels, a bottle-shaped dog toy produced by VIP Products LLC, features a black label and text that includes “The Old No. 2 on your Tennessee Carpet” and “43 percent poo by volume.” A small disclaimer on the toy’s packaging clarifies that the product is not affiliated with Jack Daniel Distillery.
The June 8 Supreme Court ruling reversed a previous verdict by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. A District Court had ruled to protect the Jack Daniel’s trademark in 2018 — a decision that was later appealed by the chew toy manufacturer. In 2020, a lower court ruled that VIP Products LLC’s toys are protected as “expressive work” under the First Amendment. The 9th Circuit said that the dog toy manufacturer did not affect Jack Daniel’s brand image as they had used the Jack Daniel’s trademark “to convey a humorous message.” The distillery brought the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2022, arguing that the toys were not classified as protected speech.
Several industry organizations filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case, including the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), Beer Institute, Brewers Association, American Distilled Spirits Alliance, American Craft Spirits Association, and Wine Institute.