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November 29, 2022

Supreme Court to Consider First Amendment Protection for Parody Dog Toy

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The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to consider the scope of protection afforded by the First Amendment to commercial parody products that feature the unauthorized use of another party's trademark(s). Jack Daniel's Properties, Inc. v. VIP Products LLC, Case No. 22-148 (Supr. Ct. Nov. 21, 2022) (certiorari granted). The questions presented are as follows:

  1. Whether humorous use of another's trademark as one's own on a commercial product is subject to the Lanham Act's traditional likelihood-of-confusion analysis, or instead receives heightened First Amendment protection from trademark-infringement claims.
  2. Whether humorous use of another's mark as one's own on a commercial product is "noncommercial" under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)(3)(C), thus barring as a matter of law a claim of dilution by tarnishment under the Trademark Dilution Revision Act.

This is the second time Jack Daniel's has filed a petition for certiorari in connection with this case. The Supreme Court first considered the matter in January 2021, following the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit's decision to vacate and remand the district court's finding of trademark infringement, reverse the judgment on dilution and uphold the validity of Jack Daniel's trademark and trade dress rights.

The case then returned to the district court, which granted summary judgment to VIP Products. The Ninth Circuit affirmed and then Jack Daniel's filed its second petition for certiorari.

The Supreme Court will seek to settle the long-standing split amongst the US Courts of Appeal regarding the proper analysis for parody in trademark infringement and dilution claims and the scope of protection afforded to it via the First Amendment.

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