Jack Daniel’s Trademark Win Over Dog Toy Denied by Ninth Circuit

Written April 7, 2020

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on March 31, 2020, held that VIP Products LLC’s dog toy that parodies a Jack Daniel’s whiskey bottle may be protected from the distillery’s trademark infringement claims by the First Amendment. VIP Prods. LLC v. Jack Daniel’s Props. Inc., 9th Cir., No. 18-16012, 3/31/20.

VIP sued Jack Daniel’s Properties Inc. for a finding that its “Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker” dog toy, which resembles a Jack Daniel’s whiskey bottle, didn’t infringe the distillery’s trademarks.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed that Jack Daniel’s “combination of bottle and label elements” is entitled to trademark protection because it’s “distinctive and aesthetically nonfunctional.” But it vacated the district court’s decision that VIP’s dog toy infringed the distillery’s trademarks by using Jack Daniel’s marks to “promote a somewhat non-expressive, commercial product.”