Owners of a cat became rich by marketing their cat as a “Grumpy Cat.” As a result, all sorts of products including toys and even a movie were made in the name of being a visibly, unhappy cat. In a one of a kind suit and type of case, copyright infringement was discussed when it came to a cat.
The corporate entity that handled all licensing for Grumpy-cat took a beverage company to suit for violations made in the business of selling coffee. The beverage company had a valid contract that was enforceable and permitted the production of “Grumpy Cat.” Problems came when Grenade Beverage decided to extend that agreement to a line of Grumpy Cat-branded ground coffee without Grumpy Cat Ltd.’s prior consent and approval. As such the question arose as to the infringement of trademark and of copyright. The lawsuit began over the sale of coffee that was unlicensed and marketed under its name. The time span of litigation lasted for over two years. In addition, there was a failure to provide an accounting of sales and profits with no pay a percentage of profits. Shirts were also being sold in the name of that coffee.
This is one of those cases where a lot of time and money that went into having these contracts and joint ventures chartered. However, it was all done for a cat and in the name of its face. Prior to the commencement of litigation, exactly all terms and conditions had been laid out for every variation of the Grump Cat image and brand each time they wanted a new item branded with the cat’s name. The brand name had even extended to memes. Internet culture shapes behavior and the culture that we are talking about. People had started to co-opt into memes which have now become the talk of legal rulings. Once upon a time, memes were free and harmless. Back then, no one would admit to owning anything. The intellectual property associated with Grumpy Cat has changed all that. Any time that someone wants to co-opt a meme, it must be legally sanctioned.
The case outcome was that Grumpy Cat was awarded a total of $480,000 in statutory damages for trademark infringement and $230,000 in statutory damages for copyright infringement. The jury also found against various commercial claims brought in counterclaims filed by Grumpy Beverage including no breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, no breach of fiduciary duty, no negligent misrepresentation and no intentional misrepresentation.
The case has assessed the value of internet celebrity and given rise to rights that not even the cat is most likely aware of.
Super Lawyers named Illinois copyright and trademark attorney Peter Lubin a Super Lawyer and Illinois business dispute attorneys Patrick Austermuehle and Andrew Murphy Rising Stars in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation, and Consumer Rights Litigation. Lubin Austermuehle’s Illinois business trial lawyers have over thirty years of experience in litigating complex class action, copyright, noncompete agreement, trademark and libel suits, consumer rights and many different types of business and commercial litigation disputes. Our Wheaton and Elmhurst business dispute lawyers, civil litigation lawyers and copyright attorneys handle emergency business lawsuits involving copyrights, trademarks, injunctions, and TROS, covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist Chicago and Oak Brook area businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud. You can contact us by calling at 630-333-0333. You can also contact us online here.