Friday, April 6, 2012

How Drunk Would You Need To Be To Confuse Jack Daniel's With Cayman Jack?

Apparently JDPI, the company behind Jack Daniel's whiskey, has no trademark inhibitions. Through LexisNexis we learn that Mark Anthony International, another alcohol company, has filed a lawsuit (pdf and embedded below) seeking declaratory judgement that they can obtain and use the trademark "Cayman Jack", after JDPI disputed their trademark application and sent them a legal threat.

Quick, look at these two bottles:

How hurried and moronic would you have to be to get them mixed up? Yes, they both use the name "Jack". If a customer is drunk enough to confuse the world's best selling whiskey with a "margarita-flavored malt beverage", they are probably well past the point of distinguishing individual words, let alone of thinking, "Wow, this clearly Jack Daniels-endorsed luxury liquor certainly changes my opinion of that brand". If such a person does exist, they must get pretty confused sometimes, since as Mark Anthony points out in its filing, the liquor store has no shortage of Jacks:

The [trademark] application was examined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") and found to be entitled to registration and published in the Official Gazette on March 9, 2010.

The fact that the USPTO believed CAYMAN JACK to be entitled to registration is wholly unsurprising given the prevalence of other "Jack" named drinks in the marketplace. The JACK DANIEL'S mark already coexists with other "Jack" named alcoholic beverages, including PANAMA JACK and CALICO JACK for rums; CACTUS JACK for tequila; PAPA JAC for alcoholic cocktails; YUKON JACK for liqueur; SCRUMPY JACK for cider; DEADEYE JACK, THIRSTY JACK, BLACK JACK STOUT, JACK RABBIT PALE ALE and JACK'S PUMPKIN SPICE ALE for malt beverages; HONEYJACK for mead and hydromel; and BLACKJACK PASTURE, JUMPIN JACK and BLACKJACK WINES for wines.

The lawsuit gets into a lot more detail, showing how the products are marketed in different ways to entirely different audiences, and walking through the entire brand development process for Cayman Jack to demonstrate that it had nothing to do with Jack Daniels. Hopefully the court sees that there's no chance of confusion here and grants them their declaratory judgement—but as we've seen in similar cases, some judges prefer to feed the ownership culture by granting companies total control over simple symbols and words.

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