Our internet culture hurtles ever forward, bringing our global conversations forward while simultaneously leaving more of us beyond a certain age behind. I'm talking, of course, about memes. Internet memes have become the common language that we never knew we needed, and perhaps didn't want. Nevertheless, it is upon us, and people from around the world have singular images to serve as touchstones in communicating with others on the other side of the globe, relaying an idea through a single image that has a collectively understood context.
One of the grande dames of internet memes, Grumpy Cat, has won a $710,000 lawsuit against Grenade Beverage for copyright infringement over the sale of Grumpy Cat Grumppucchinos. The fractious feline's owner, Tabatha Bundesen, had struck a partnership agreement with the owners of Grenade Beverages, Nick and Paul Sandford, for the creation of the drink that would use Grumpy Cat's likeness. The Sandfords paid Bundesen $150,000 in upfront royalties before the relationship turned contentious, with Bundesen suing the Sandfords for breach of contract related to additional Grumpy Cat products sold by Grenade Beverage that weren't included as part of the original licensing agreement.
In response, the Sandfords counter-sued Bundesen in the amount of $12 million in damages, claiming lost revenue due to a failure on the part of Bundesen and Grumpy Cat Ltd to promote and market the product adequately. Particular sticking points were claims of a Grumpy Cat movie starring Jack Black and Will Ferrell that the Sandfords say enticed them to enter the arrangement, as well as Bundesen's failure during a "Fox & Friends" appearance with Grumpy Cat to stick to agreed-upon talking points to promote the beverage.
For those concerned that the aborted partnership leaves the market devoid of Grumpy cat merchandise, you can rest easy; a cursory Google search turns up numerous results for t-shirts, pillows, coffee mugs, calendars, and even a book. The fact that a woman is able to market and license images of her cat and protect her brand speaks to the strengths of our intellectual property laws, although what it might say about us that such things exist is a question for another day.