Her image has made millions of fans—and dollars—all over the world, but others tried to cash in on her fame without leaving her a lick of canned tuna in return. In January, the world’s favorite feline, Grumpy Cat, was awarded $710,000 by a federal court in California from a coffee distributor that improperly used her image to sell its goods.
Grumpy Cat, whose real name is Tardar Sauce, is known by just about anybody who has been online in the past five years. Her furry, frowning face has charmed the world, leading to a reported $100 million in earnings over the past five years for various modeling gigs, book deals, and endorsements.
Tardar Sauce’s image is licensed by Grumpy Cat Limited, an LLC owned and managed by her owner, Arizona native Tabatha Bundesen. The company licenses Grumpy Cat’s image to various businesses to use in the sale of their products, including California coffee company Grenade Beverage for a “Grumpy Cat Grumppuccino.” However, Grenade Beverage was caught in some hot water, slapping Grumpy Cat’s image on additional products, including its highly successful “Grumpy Cat Roasted Coffee.”
After spilling the beans about its improper coffee advertising, a California jury awarded $710,000 in damages for copyright and trademark infringement from Grenade Beverage to Grumpy Cat Limited. Any money paid to satisfy the judgment will go to the LLC and its owner, Ms. Bundsen, a former Red Lobster waitress who was able to quit her job and devote herself fulltime to her feline friend.
The moral of this story is to make sure you avoid getting caught in a claws, because in the cat and mouse game of big advertisement you do not get nine lives and any meowment could be your last.
Here at the Poppe Law Firm, we routinely assess and represent clients in breach of contract claims, business disputes, and corporate class actions. Please contact us with any claims you may have and, if you’re up for it, any cat puns!