People tend to get grumpy if they don’t have their coffee in the morning but Grumpy Cat takes that to an all new level. Grumpy Cat was victorious in a lawsuit against a coffee company for copyright and trademark infringement over unauthorized coffee beans that bear Grumpy Cat’s image. But in a decision that just came down, Grumpy Cat’s request for attorneys’ fees was denied.
The things you learn in lawsuit filings. Grumpy Cat is not the legal name given to the Internet sensation that is the most perturbed pussycat in the world. Grumpy Cat was born Tardar Sauce, a female cat that appears on television shows, “authored” three books and even had her own Lifetime movie. Grumpy has her own company, Grumpy Cat Limited, that owns several copyrights to the image of the cat and even owns a registered trademark for the first image to the right.
In 2013, Grumpy Cat Limited contracted with Grenade Beverage LLC to produce a line of iced coffee drinks called “Grumpy Cat Grumppuccino”. Grump Cat received both a licensing fee and royalties for sales of the coffee. In 2015, Grenade began distributing Grumpy Cat roasted ground coffee which Grumpy claims was not authorized by the contract. Despite Grumpy’s protest and not unsurprisingly gruff cease and desist letters, the coffee beans are still being distributed by Grenade. Therefore, Grumpy filed this lawsuit for trademark and copyright infringement against Grenade.
Grumpy Cat was very happy to win, not really, this lawsuit and collected $710,000 for the acts of copyright and trademark infringement. While Grenade was in the right to use Grumpy’s image on the iced coffee products it allegedly exceeded the scope of the license when putting Grumpy on different products. When a licensee uses intellectual property and exceeds the scope of a licensing agreement, it commits copyright and trademark infringement. As the victor, Grumpy has the right to request the award of attorneys’ fees under the Copyright Act. The award of attorneys’ fees under the Copyright Act is left to the court’s discretion. The court decides whether the victor should get its costs and usually looks to such factors as bad faith or if the defendant had a valid defense. Much to a certain cat’s chagrin, the court held that Grenade did not acted frivolously or in bad faith when they breached the license agreement thinking that it was not intentional. Therefore, no fees for you. Its still a victory for Grump Cat but when asked to comment, she had nothing to say other than “Bah!”