In the first case, the companies behind the JOHNNIE WALKER brand of scotch whisky are suing the purveyors of JOHNNIE BARKER BLACK LAB flavored dog water (pictured above on the right) for infringement and dilution of the JOHNNIE WALKER BLACK LABEL trade dress (pictured above on the left) (see registrations here, here, and here). See Diageo Brands B.V. et al v. Vineyards et al., Case No. 09-cv-02002 (D. Conn. Dec. 9, 2009) (complaint here).
Anybody else out there really believe that Johnnie Walker is expanding its famous whisky brand into the highly lucrative canine beverage market? [For those who can’t get enough of these whacky trademark disputes involving parody pet items, check out prior blog posts here, here, and here].
The second trademark parody case involves a lawsuit by the company which owns the clothing brand THE NORTH FACE against a Missouri man named Jimmy Winkelmann and his related company over use of THE SOUTH BUTT in connection with certain clothing items. See North Face Apparel Corp., The v. Williams Pharmacy, Inc., et al., Case No. 09-cv-02029 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 10, 2009) (complaint here).
In this case, the attempt to take advantage of the trademarks and goodwill developed by The North Face seems clear enough that The South Butt is not likely to be able to get around a likelihood of confusion finding. And yet, to the extent that The South Butt attempts to defend its mark as a parody, this use of The South Butt on clothes does not strike me as such a clear cut example of a trademark parody which in turn ultimately undercuts the company’s parody argument (i.e., the parody in this instance is not as obvious as say the use of a famous scotch whisky brand label in connection with the sale of flavored dog water).