Jack Daniel's trademark owner sues Popcorn Sutton over bottle, label

The owner of the trademark for Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey has sued the Nashville-based distiller of Popcorn Sutton Moonshine claiming trademark infringement over use of the iconic Jack Daniel's square bottle shape and a similar black-and-white label for bottles of the moonshine.

Filed last week in U.S. District Court in Nashville by San Rafael, Calif.-based Jack Daniel's Properties, Inc., the suit names J&M Concepts LLC, and Popcorn Sutton Distilling, LLC, which operate from Nashville.

"This is an action to redress defendants' infringement" of Jack Daniel's "federally- registered trademarks," the complaint says, adding that: "Defendants' unfair competition" is in violation of federal and state laws "arising from ... marketing and sale of Defendants' Popcorn Sutton's Tennessee White Whiskey in a trade dress that is confusingly similar to the iconic trade dress for Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey."

Jack Daniel's "Tennessee whiskey is one of the oldest, longest-selling, and most iconic consumer products in the history of the United States," the suit says, adding that the plaintiff "owns and licenses the use of the trademarks and trade dress for Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey."

The action claims that while Popcorn Sutton moonshine originally was sold in Mason jars, the maker of the product - named after an infamous Appalachian moonshiner who committed suicide rather than go to prison for making illegal whiskey - switched to the square bottle in the same design as Jack Daniel's "sometime in 2012."

It also contends that use of the signature bottles and similar label "creates the unreasonable risk that consumers will conclude that there exists some affiliation, connection, or association between" Jack Daniel's and Popcorn Sutton Moonsine, and that the bottles are used to "deceive and confuse the public."

The suit also notes that Jack Daniel's is now producing a moonshine whiskey using its own square bottles and distinctive label.

Jack Daniel's Properties says it has licensed the trademark and the "trademark dress" - the unique bottle - only to Louisville-based Brown-Foreman Corp., parent of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, for use in whiskey bottling and sales.

The plaintiff asks for an injunction to stop the use of the bottle and label by Popcorn Sutton Moonshine, and for monetary "damages in an amount to be proved at trial."


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