“Ironically, while the world-famous feline Grumpy Cat and her valuable brand are most often invoked in a tongue-and-cheek fashion, Defendants’ despicable misconduct here has actually given Grumpy Cat and her owners something to be grumpy about,” reads the beginning of an actual lawsuit [PDF] filed in actual federal court last week.
The case involves a dispute between Grumpy Cat Ltd, the Ohio-based company that owns the rights to the the famous cat’s likeness, name, and a bunch of trademarks, and Grenade Beverage, a company that licensed the Grumpy Cat name and image for use on “a line of Grumpy Cat-branded coffee products,” in exchange for royalties and a cash advance.
According to the complaint, the idea was for Grenade to produce and distribute a line of Grumpy Cat branded iced-coffee beverages called “Grumpy Cat Grumppuccino.” Anything beyond that, per the plaintiffs, would require further negotiations with, and approval from, Grumpy Cat Ltd.
So when GCL recently found out that Grenade intended to sell Grumpy Cat coffee beans, it did not approve. In fact, according to the lawsuit, Grenade was told repeatedly that it could not move forward with the new coffee bean products.
“You are not authorized to proceed with the ground coffee product, and your posting of these products for sale will constitute a clear breach of the subject licensing agreement,” reads a Nov. 24 e-mail to Grenade cited in the complaint. “Do NOT proceed with the posting of the ground coffee products.”
But it looks like Grenade went ahead with it anyway, advertising the new coffee beans on social media:
Perhaps confusing matters further, the coffee products are now being sold on GrumpyCat.com, which you might assume belongs to GCL. Instead, according to the lawsuit, Grenade “obtained the rights and ownership to the internet domain http://www.grumpycat.com, and have been operating the Infringing Website for the purpose of furthering their unauthorized use and exploitation of the Grumpy Cat Copyrights and Grumpy Cat Trademarks. Despite repeated demands from Plaintiff to transfer and turn over the rights to the Infringing Website, Defendants have refused.”
GCL also accuses Grenade of failing to provide accurate and timely accounting of sales and royalties, and selling unauthorized T-shirts with Grumpy Cat’s image. The lawsuit accuses Grenade of copyright infringement, trademark infringement and dilution, cybersquatting, and breach of Contract.