Grumpy Cat’s owners take coffee maker to court over copyright infringements, demands $600k
Owners of the Grumpy Cat have asked a California federal court to issue a $600,000 judgment against Los Angeles-based Grenade Beverage, which apparently abused their copyrights that allowed the coffee maker to use cat’s visage to market a line of coffee drinks. Further, the owners have also asked for a ban on the company in question from selling any merchandise associated with Grumpy Cat along with damages for trademark and contract breach.
“Ironically, while the world-famous feline Grumpy Cat and her valuable brand are most often invoked in a tongue-and-cheek fashion, Defendants’ despicable misconduct here has actually given Grumpy Cat and her owners something to be grumpy about,” reads the original lawsuit.
For those unfamiliar, Tardar Sauce (born April 4, 2012), is a cat and Internet celebrity known for her “grumpy” facial expression, and thus she got the common name Grumpy Cat. According to her owner, Tabatha Bundesen, her permanently grumpy-looking face is due to an underbite and feline dwarfism. Grumpy Cat rose to popularity after a picture of hers was posted in the social news website with grumpy captions. Currently, “The Official Grumpy Cat” page on Facebook, which has over 8.7 million likes.
Thanks to their pet’s unique facial expression that turned her into an overnight Internet star, the cat’s owners were quick to capitalise on this and make millions.
Last year, the cat’s owners, incorporated as Grumpy Cat LLC, took Grenade Beverage to court in an attempt to get the coffee maker to cease infringing associated copyrights and trademarks.
Grumpy Cat’s owners moved for a default after Grenade Beverage failed to reply properly to the allegations. Therefore, a judge this summer moved toward entering a default judgement in favor of Grumpy Cat’s humans. However, they proceeded a few days ago and put in a request for motion for default judgment.
According to the lawsuit, Grumpy Cat (the company) licensed the brand in 2013 to be used for the ice drink “Grumppuccino,” to be sold by the California company, Grenade Beverage.
However, Grenade apparently went beyond that agreement and started selling Grumpy Cat Roasted Coffee. Further, Grumpy Cat claims that Grenade failed to provide an accounting of sales and profits and failed to pay a percentage of Grumppuccino profits. It also started selling unauthorized Grumppuccino T-shirts.
“Not only was the Infringing Product never approved by Plaintiff under the License Agreement, but the packaging and marketing materials for the Infringing Product, as depicted in the example below, primarily and exclusively incorporate Plaintiff’s exclusive intellectual property, including the Grumpy Cat Copyrights and the Grumpy Cat Trademarks,” the memorandum reads.
Several allegations that were mentioned in the original complaint have been repeated in the memorandum (pdf) supporting the new motion. Despite the coffee maker removing its website and social media accounts, Grumpy Cat LLC is still seeking statutory damages for four different copyright claims.
“Here, the magnitude of Grenade’s willful infringement of Plaintiff’s Grumpy Cat Copyrights, willful disregard of this Court’s authority, and refusal to stop its blatant infringement renders Plaintiff entitled to a $150,000 statutory damages award for each of the Grumpy Cat Copyrights, in a total amount of $600,000,” the motion reads.
In addition, the company wants all profits from Grumpy Cat-related products that were sold by Grenade, plus $15,000 in legal fees.
Together with the non-party company Grumpy Beverage, defendants Paul and Nick Sandford, Paul and Nick Sandford, who are affiliated with Grenade Beverage, have filed a counterclaim in a hope to affirm that they are the rightful owner of various Grumpy Cat coffee-related trademarks and copyrights, as well as several disputed domain names.