Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey has recently taken to the courts to defend their trademark rights. Jack Daniels believes an independent brewer selling “Popcorn Sutton’s White Whiskey”, has infringed on their trademark rights, in particular the trade dress of Jack Daniels signature whiskey bottle.
It is important to note that trade dress (the packaging or labeling of a product) cannot be a federally registered trademark, but is still subject to common law trademark rights if the trade dress has obtained secondary meaning. To avoid boring our readers with the technicalities of the issue, suffice it to say Jack Daniels should easily meet this standard, and thus their “trade dress” should be protectable.
Jack Daniels asserts the bottle shape and label of Popcorn Sutton’s product is “confusingly similar” to their own well established whiskey bottle and label.
The Popcorn Sutton Bottle, like the Jack Daniels bottle, comprises a square bottle with sloped/curved shoulders which angle upwards. Further, the Popcorn Sutton label comprises white lettering on a black background, again very similar to the label produced by Jack Daniels.
Jack Daniels believes that consumers will see the similarly shaped and labeled bottles and either:
- confuse the Popcorn Sutton brand of whiskey for their own; or
- believe the brand is somehow affiliated with the Jack Daniels brand of whiskey.
This sort of action is not uncommon from larger companies, as they do not want other (generally smaller) alcohol producers “piggy-backing” on their hard earned and established success, and further do not want their name considered alongside what the larger company believes to be an inferior product.
What the courts will decide in this matter is still to be determined. However, it might be fun to take a look at this comparison between the two bottles, and see if you find them “confusingly similar.”