Photo Coutesy: Kim Lowton @ Flickr

Whiskey giant Jack Daniel’s filed a trademark infringement suit against Popcorn Sutton Distilling LLC, a small distiller of Popcorn Sutton Moonshine in Nashville, Tennessee, for allegedly copying Jack Daniel’s packaging style. As it appears, Jack Daniel’s contends that Popcorn Sutton intentionally designed its packaging such that it can ride on the popularity of the world-famous Jack Daniel’s whiskey brand.  

Inspired by the Tennessee whiskey legend Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton, Popcorn Sutton Distilling LLC originally sold its white whiskey in transparent Mason jars. However sometime in 2012 Popcorn Sutton altered its bottling design and label to look an awful lot like the Jack Daniel’s bottle and label. Both bottles are square shaped with angled shoulders and beveled corners, with white and black color patterned labels.

Irked by this striking similarity, Jack Daniel’s Properties Unit, the controller of the Jack Daniel’s trademark, sued J&M Concepts LLC, and Popcorn Sutton Distilling, LLC (both of which operate from Nashville) for infringement. Their claim was that the new packaging is “confusingly similar” to the internationally known whiskey brand and it infringed its iconic trade dress causing public confusion. The case is Jack Daniel’s Properties Inc. v. J&M Concepts LLC, 13-cv-01156, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville), as reported by Bloomberg News.

In its complaint, Jack Daniel’s alleged that Popcorn Sutton’s packaging “creates the unreasonable risk that consumers will conclude that there exists some affiliation, connection, or association between” Jack Daniel’s and Popcorn Sutton Moonshine. Therefore, it requested the court to direct Popcorn Sutton to discontinue selling Popcorn Sutton products under such similar packaging and also to destroy all allegedly infringing promotional materials. Further, Jack Daniel’s has also sought awards of profits from the sale of all Popcorn Sutton products that are sold under the impugned packaging, together with money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. The suit also notes that Jack Daniel’s is now producing its own moonshine whiskey packaged in its unique square bottles and label, as reported by Bloomberg News.

Although there is no news yet on Popcorn Sutton’s reaction to Jack Daniel’s action. It will be interesting to see how America’s Rebel Spirit (as Popcorn Sutton refers to itself on its website) responds to these allegations.

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