Trademark Infringer Takes a Shot at Jack Daniel’s

Whiskey maker Jack Daniel Distillery settled a trademark infringement suit in which it accused a rival whiskey maker of copying its distinctive bottle design and label.

Jack Daniel’s sued Popcorn Sutton Distilling last fall, claiming that Popcorn changed its own packaging to look more like that of Jack Daniel’s.

The Popcorn product — Tennessee White Whiskey (aka “moonshine”) – was previously sold in rustic mason jars. Its new bottles were square with angled shoulders and a white-on-black color scheme label, with a design and font similar to those long used on the Jack Daniel’s whiskey bottle labels.

Jack Daniel’s recently introduced its own line of white whiskey – Jack Daniel’s Unaged Tennesee Rye.

According to the complaint,

Defendants’ use of the new Popcorn Sutton’s trade dress in connection with their Tennessee white whiskey is likely to cause purchasers and prospective purchasers of the product to believe mistakenly that it is a new Tennessee white whiskey product in the Jack Daniel’s line.

A columnist for Slate Magazine noted

My bourbon-appreciating father once artfully compared drinking white whiskey to getting stabbed in the mouth with a screwdriver that’s been used to pry open a gas can. Of course, some will disagree with that colorful assessment. 

Under the settlement, Popcorn will stop using its new bottles as of June 1, 2014.

The Popcorn line of whiskey is named after Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton, described in the suit as

an Appalachian moonshiner who committed suicide in 2009 rather than report to federal prison to serve a sentence following his conviction on various offenses relating to his moonshine production.

Sutton, descended from a long line of moonshiners, was the author of Me and My Likker, an autobiography and handbook for moonshine production.  He also appeared in a film entitled This is the Last Dam Run of Likker I’ll Ever Make, which became a cult classic and was reworked into an Emmy-winning documentary.

If you have questions about trademarks or trade dress, contact our office to arrange a free initial consultation.

Disclaimer: We fully comply with all laws related to attorney marketing and this posting is considered an advertisement.

Photo Attribution: “Whiskey still at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Tennessee, USA” by Brian Stansberry is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

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