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Poop and a parody of the Supreme Court debate in a high-stakes intellectual property dispute

Spoofs and pet poop and product protection will be prior US Supreme Court In a humorous essay on a serious topic: When mockeries of well-known brands go too far under federal law.

The justices will hear oral arguments Wednesday on an appeal from distiller Jack Daniel’s, which will sue to stop Arizona Corporation From the sale of plastic dog toys that resemble famous whiskey bottle labels and labels.

It is the latest high-profile intellectual property rights case in the Supreme Court. A ruling is expected by June that may clarify First Amendment limits In such disputes trademark infringement.

At issue is the “Silly Squeakers” line of dog toys, some of which are imitations of well-known brands.

Jack Daniel’s new Indian motorcycle has whiskey in the paint

The US Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments with Jack Daniel’s. (Valerie Plech/Bloomberg via Getty Images/File)

Phoenix-based VIP Products markets dozens of… new pet products, Including the 18″ liquor bottle shaped vinyl “Bad Spaniels” which was advertised on their website as “silly and fun for all!”

the Upscale whiskey maker In its appeal, it refers to the game as “poop-themed” and says the parody product is hurting its valuable brand by confusing customers.

The chew contains the words “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet”, a play on Jack Daniel’s phrase “Old No. 7 Brand”. And while the Jack Daniel’s bottle reveals that it contains 40% alcohol by volume, the game’s poster comically states that it is “43% boo by volume.” and “100% stinks”.

VIP says their packaging states that “This product is not affiliated with Jack Daniel’s Distillery.”

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Jack Daniel's is scheduled to present oral arguments before the Supreme Court.

Jack Daniel’s is scheduled to present oral arguments before the Supreme Court. (Igor Golovnyov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images/File)

Legal stand

in What distinguishes judicial humor, Intellectual property experts and legal bloggers playfully previewed the case online, wondering if the Supreme Court, in a “spirited debate,” was “wasting” its trademark precedent; Will her rule have a “bark and no sting”?

Even lawyers on both sides tried to take a half-hearted approach in their brief briefs with the Supreme Court.

“Jack Daniel’s loves dogs and appreciates a good joke as much as anyone. But Jack Daniel’s loves his customers more than that, and he doesn’t want to confuse them or associate smooth whiskey with dog poop,” the company’s attorneys wrote in court.

If their appeal fails, they warn, “anyone could use a well-known brand to sell sex toys, drinking games, or marijuana pong, while misleading customers and destroying billions of dollars in goodwill — all in the name of pure fun.” [federal law] to a free brand for all.”

Levi Strauss, Nike and Campbell Soup Company They are among those who have given friendly briefs in support of Jack Daniel’s.

But the pet products company counters, “America’s leading whiskey distiller is ironic and lacks a sense of humor and doesn’t realize when they – and everyone else – have had enough.”

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Jack Daniel's is involved in an intellectual property lawsuit in the Supreme Court.

Jack Daniel’s is involved in an intellectual property lawsuit in the Supreme Court. (Jakob Borzycki/NoorPhoto via Getty Images/File)

In the half-century tradition of hilarious parody of Wacky Packages trading cards from Topps to weird yankovic, VIP puts a chewable dog toy. VIP never sold whiskey or other food, nor did he use “Jack Daniel’s” in any way (humorously or not). It’s just enough of a parody of the iconic bottle for people to get the joke.”

In an unusual move, the VIP asked the court for permission to present 10 of her actual “bad Spanish” games for judges to examine in person, even encouraging her to “squeak” them for effect.

Many advocates for freedom of speech and artistic expression have filed legal briefs in support of VIP products, some of them arguing that “cultural connotations” Used to boot movies, “fanzine” homages and political blogs would be threatened if the protections imposed by the law were limited.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled against the VIPs, concluding, “The bad spaniel game is an act of expression entitled to First Amendment protection.”

proposed by the Ministry of Justice That judges decide on cases at this stage and return the case to the lower courts to resolve some important legal issues.

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The Supreme Court is set to hear the term's second high-profile intellectual property case.

The Supreme Court is set to hear the term’s second high-profile intellectual property case. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Intellectual property issues

This is the The second high-profile intellectual property case The Supreme Court deals with this term.

In October, the judges debated a fair use dispute over a portrait of Prince of the late famous artist Andy Warhol.

Photographer Len Goldsmith captured this iconic image in 1981 the singer which Warhol later used to create a series of silkscreen images illustrating the features of the magazines.

At issue in this case is whether a work of art is transformative if it conveys a different meaning or message than its source material, or whether courts cannot consider meaning if it is “apparently derived from” its source material.

The verdict in this case will be issued in the coming months.

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The Supreme Court hears cases that could affect freedom of expression.

The Supreme Court hears cases that could affect freedom of expression. (Universal History Archive/Universal Image Collection via Getty Images/File)

The Supreme Court in the Warhol and Whiskey cases is being asked to navigate an admittedly personal investigation—only when derivative designs cross a line of copyright or trademark infringement, even when they involve low-budget humor.

Under the “fair use” principle, A copyrighted work or registered trademark can be seized under certain conditions—a legal standard designed to promote greater creativity and freedom of expression. These “transformative” works can be used for commentary, criticism, and commercial parody.

But under a major federal trademark infringement law — known as the Lanham Act — those suing typically must show that, among other things, the offending work or trademark “overtly misleads” or confuses consumers.

This standard has long been debated in the courts, and here judges are asked to clarify the limits of the digital age, when Artificial intelligence and computer technology It makes converting art and branding easier and more widespread.

Under the “Rogers test” that federal courts have used over the years, judges are required to balance the “right to be protected” [a] A well-known name and the right of others to express themselves freely in their artwork.”

It is named after the late actress Ginger Rogers, who lost her lawsuit over Fellini’s 1986 film “Ginger and Fred” about Italian cabaret singers. Rogers claimed that the film infringed her trademark rights, but an appeals court found that expressive uses of trademarks merited an increase. Protect freedom of speech.

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Jack Daniel says so "themed tube" Dog toys destroy its trademark in Supreme Court appeal.

Jack Daniel’s stated dog toys that “looks like poo” are destroying their trademark in appeal to the Supreme Court. (Stephen Lofkin/Getty Images for New York Magazine/File)

Free speech effects

What the court decides could have major repercussions beyond commercial products and in the current fractured political expression, with satirical sites Such as “The Babylon Bee” and TV comedy shows such as “Saturday Night Live” that showcase elected leaders, ideological movements, and celebrity and corporate culture in general.

This includes the recent phenomenon of “culture jamming,” which the dictionary defines as “a form of political and social activity that, by way of fake advertisements, false news stories, and the affixing of company logos and product labels, computer hacking, etc., drawing attention to and at the same time subverting the power of the media, governments, and large corporations.”

Well-known corporate logos and symbols are usually altered in a sarcastic or sarcastic fashion, sometimes called “guerrilla communications”, due to frequent grassroots, anonymous origins and their use in flash mobs and graffiti.

Even the nine judges can indirectly expand or limit their parodies of themselves.

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Case in point: Last month, the court rejected a separate appeal From an ohio man who created a Facebook page to mock the local police department. He wanted to sue after his arrest and was initially charged with violating a state law that makes it illegal to “disrupt” or “interrupt” police functions.

The Onion website provided a friendly feed discussing the social and cultural benefits of satire in political criticism – making its point in a snarky brash style.

Addressing the justices directly, the satirical website Al Akhbar was blunt: “The Onion knows the federal judiciary is run entirely by Latinos.”

The current case is Jack Daniel’s Properties v. VIP Products LLC (22-148).

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