Is your cat worth $100 million?
If you answered yes, then you would be Tabatha Bundesen the owner of “Grumpy Cat”.
Grumpy Cat is an ordinary cat with an underbite and feline dwarfism. This cat became an internet celebrity in 2012 because of its permanently grumpy face. The cat’s initial popularity originated from a picture of its face posted on social media with a grumpy caption. Stemming from this have been toys, books and the potential for a movie contract. The official Grumpy Cat Facebook page has over 8 million likes and the Cat featured on the front of New York Magazine in 2013. This is one very popular grumpy cat and Ms Bundensen recognised this – trademarking the name ‘Grumpy Cat’ and registering numerous photographs and illustrations with the United States Trademark Office.
Now this grumpy kitty can add litigation to its hair ball portfolio. In 2013, Ms Bundensen’s company“Grumpy Cat Limited” entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with California-based company Grenade Beverage LLC (Grenade) to license the cat’s copyrights and trademarks for coffee products. The agreement provided that the launch of any additional product offerings would be subject to further negations and approval.
On 11 December 2015, “Grumpy Cat Limited” launched a lawsuit against Grenade, accusing them of cybersquatting through the web domain www.grumpycat.com along with exploitation of the copyright and trademarks connected with Grumpy Cat. Grenade had recently launched a new line of Grumpy Cat merchandise such as the “Grumppuccinno” t-shirt as well as a roasted coffee ground product, all without the permission of the Plaintiff. Grumpy Cat’s owner claims that the products have been launched in breach of the licensing agreement. The claim begins “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.”
The plaintiff is claiming damages of $150,000 for each of the individual infringements as well as requesting a transfer all ownership in the domain name to the Plaintiff and pay $100,000 in damages for the infringement of the domain name.
The dispute is yet to be settled in the US but Grenade should err on the side of caution as this plaintiff has 9 lives.