Grumpy Cat, famous for her dour looks and internet popularity, has a new complaint. As stated in a December 11, 2015 Central District of California complaint filed on her behalf, “[i]ronically, while the world-famous feline Grumpy Cat and her valuable brand are most often invoked in a tongue-and-cheek fashion, Defendants’ despicable misconduct here has actually given Grumpy Cat and her owners something to be grumpy about.”
The allegations? That Grenade Beverage LLC has violated Grumpy Cat Limited’s rights in the cat’s pseudonym and image, including diluting the GRUMPY CAT trademark, creating unauthorized derivative works from her copyright-protected image, and cybersquatting through use of the grumpycat.com domain.
The dispute arises from a business arrangement in which Grenade Beverage would produce a line of iced-coffee beverages utilizing the GRUMPY CAT mark. Sadly, a disagreement arose between the owners of Tardar Sauce (the cat’s private identity) and Grenade as to the sale of bagged ground coffee. The complaint cites to email communications stating, among other things, “[y]ou are not authorized to proceed with the ground coffee product, and your posting of these products for sale will constitute a clear breach of the subject licensing agreement…Do NOT proceed with the posting of the ground coffee products.” In spite of this, the complaint further alleges, Grenade produced derivative images of Grumpy Cat, placed them on bagged coffee labels with the GRUMPY CAT mark, and proceeded to sell the product via the grumpycat.com website.
Grumpy Cat has had a surprisingly profitable run since 2012, as confirmed by the complaint’s statement that successful brand management has resulted in “millions of dollars of sales.” Energetic brand enforcement is a key part of that success – no caffeine required.
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