A squeaky vinyl dog toy just had its day in court — the highest court in the land.
The toy, styled to resemble a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey but instead labeled as "Bad Spaniels," is at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court case argued before the justices March 22 that is centered on copyright and trade infringement.
VIP Products LLC is an Arizona manufacturer of pet toys that was sued by Jack Daniel's Properties Inc., with Jack Daniel's looking to protect its trademark while VIP Products argues that "America's leading distiller of whiskey ... lacks a sense of humor," VIP says in court documents.
"In the playful parodic tradition that has ranged over a half century from Topps's Wacky Packages trading cards through 'Weird Al' Yankovic, VIP put out a chewable dog toy. VIP has never sold whiskey or other comestibles, nor has it used 'Jack Daniel's' in any way (humorously or not). It merely mimicked enough of the iconic bottle that people would get the joke," its attorney said in paperwork filed with the court.
A lower court found that consumers would confuse the "Bad Spaniels" toy with Jack Daniel's liquor and barred VIP from continuing to make the item, but a U.S. Court of Appeals reversed that decision leading to the case going to the Supreme Court, the website SCOTUSblog wrote.
VIP's Silly Squeakers line also includes Cataroma Extra styled to look like a Corona beer bottle, a Heini Sniffin' toy mimicking a bottle of Heineken beer and Panta soda to copy a can of Fanta-brand soft drinks.