— Jessica Gutierrez Alm, Attorney
A dog toy display at a local pet store caught my attention recently.
I did a double take on seeing the familiar fonts, coloring, and packaging. Not long after, I happened to find these at a different pet store.
Once again, the familiar labels, coloring, and bottle designs caught my attention.
While certainly reminiscent of the actual brands, these all appear to be clear examples of parody. The Chewy Vuiton case is particularly instructive here. In that case, Louis Vuitton sued dog toy manufacturer Haute Diggity Dog for trademark infringement and dilution over a Louis Vuitton-themed dog toy.
The court held that the dog toy was indeed a successful parody, and Haute Diggity’s use of CHEWY VUITON did not constitute infringement or dilute the Louis Vuitton trademark rights. In analyzing Haute Diggity’s parody defense, the court defined a parody as a work that (1) references the original/famous brand, (2) but makes clear that the work is not the original/famous brand, and (3) communicates some articulable element of satire, ridicule, joking, or amusement. While recognizing the similarities between the dog toy and Louis Vuitton’s designer bags, the court also articulated several differences. For example, the court highlighted that the dog toy is smaller, plush, and inexpensive—clear distinctions over LV purses. The court characterized the dog toys as “simplified and crude,” rather than the “detailed and distinguished” purses.
While Jose Perro, Dr. Pooper, HeinieSniff’n and the others I recently stumbled on are probably parodies as well, they beg the question of where the parody line falls. The Chewy Vuiton court made clear that there must be some readily identifiable differences between the original mark and the parodied work. But how many differences are enough?
Consider the Snif peanut butter jar, for example. While the words and the items themselves are different, there seems to be some room for suggested association between peanut butter and dog toys. Peanut butter is frequently used as a dog treat by many owners. Surely a dog owner might believe Jif peanut butter had entered the dog toy market.
What do you think? Are all of these clear cases of parody like the Chewy Vuiton toys?
Although perhaps the most important question is: why are there so many dog toy parodies?