There are dozens of celebrity cats on the Internet, but Grumpy Cat probably tops them all.
The cat’s owners have made millions thanks to their pet’s unique facial expression, which turned her into an overnight Internet star.
Part of this revenue comes from successful merchandise lines, including the Grumpy Cat “Grumppuccino” iced coffee beverage, sold by the California company Grenade Beverage.
The company licensed the copyright and trademarks to sell the iced coffee, but is otherwise not affiliated with the cat and its owners. Initially this partnership went well, but after the coffee maker started to sell other “Grumpy Cat” products, things turned bad.
The cat’s owners, incorporated as Grumpy Cat LLC, took the matter to court last year with demands for the coffee maker to stop infringing associated copyrights and trademarks.
After Grenade Beverage failed to properly respond to the allegations, Grumpy Cat’s owners moved for a default, which a court clerk entered early June. A few days ago they went ahead and submitted a motion for default judgment.
A memorandum (pdf) supporting the new motion repeats many of the allegations that were listed in the original complaint. Among other things, it accuses the coffee maker of manufacturing and selling Grumpy Cat merchandise without permission.
“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.
Nevertheless, Grumpy Cat and her owner still hold the company responsible for its previous infringements. In their motion they list four copyrights, claiming the maximum of $150,000 in statutory damages for each.
“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.
This number is repeated in the proposed default judgment (pdf) as well, which the court still has to sign off on.
In addition to the copyright infringements, Grumpy Cat also asks for actual and treble damages for trademark infringements, damages for contract breach, and injunctive relief to prevent the coffee maker from selling Grumpy Cat products in the future.
Since it’s a request for a default judgment, there is a good chance that the judge will approve the demands. While it’s unlikely that Grumpy Cat herself will care, her owners will definitely be happy if that’s the case.
Still, a default judgment doesn’t mean the end of the Grumpy Cat dispute. Defendants Paul and Nick Sandford, who are affiliated with Grenade Beverage, did respond to the original complaint and are not yet throwing in the towel.
Together with the non-party company Grumpy Beverage, they filed a counterclaim asking for declaratory judgments affirming that they are the rightful owner of various Grumpy Cat coffee-related trademarks and copyrights, as well as several disputed domain names.
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