Parody or Infringement

Haute Diggity Dog® sells pet toys that call to mind famous brands such as:

  • Prada®
  • Birkin®
  • Louis Vuitton®
  • Absolut®
  • Starbucks®
  • Budweiser®
  • Cartier®
  • LaCroix®

It’s possible that Haute Diggity Dog has permission from these famous brands. If it doesn’t have permission it’s probably relying on being a non-infringing parody.

What does it take to avoid a claim of trademark infringement based on parody?

To be considered parody, you have to “convey two simultaneous – and contradictory – messages: that it is the original, but also that it is not the original and is instead a parody. To the extent that it does only the former but not the latter, it is not only a poor parody but also vulnerable under trademark law, since the customer will be confused.”[i]

Producing trademark parodies requires nerves of steel because there’s no way to be certain ahead of time if you’ve successfully conveyed two contradictory messages.

Remember, also, that parodies work well only with famous brands, which usually have the money needed to defend their rights.

Do you think the toys in the basket are successful parodies? Would you be willing to take this type of risk in your business?

Shout out to Cassandra G. for both the suggestion for this post and for the photos of the actual dog toys.

[i] Cliff Notes, Inc. v. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, 886 F.2d 490, 494 (2nd Cir. 1989)

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