STACY J GROSSMAN

Grumpy Cat: Pet Influencer, Prevailing Plaintiff in Copyright Lawsuit


by Stacy J. Grossman,

 

Tarder Sauce, a/k/a Grumpy Cat, might wear a permanent scowl, but she has reason to be happy today. 710,001 reasons, to be precise.

Grumpy Cat soared to fame in 2012, after her photo was posted on Reddit and went viral. Her owner promptly quit her job as a waitress at Red Lobster, and formed a limited liability company called Grumpy Cat Limited. This entity owns 10 trademark registrations and pending applications for GRUMPY CAT, copyright registrations for various photographs and drawings of the cat, and manages various licensing and sponsorship arrangements. Among other things, Grumpy Cat produces a line of branded clothing and merchandise, is the "author" of multiple books, has appeared on TodayGood Morning America, and American Idol, starred in a commercial for Honey Nut Cheerios, is an official "spokescat" for Nestle's Friskies cat food, and has starred in a (bad) movie!

Grumpy Cat's ascent from house pet to pet influencer is documented on her very own website, here. With more than 2.4 million followers on Instagram, the cat is more well known, and worth more money, than most of us.

And now the cat can add "prevailing party in a lawsuit" to her long list of accomplishments. Because earlier this week, an eight-person jury in Santa Ana, California, awarded Grumpy Cat Limited $710,001 in damages.

In 2013, Grumpy Cat Limited entered into a licensing agreement with a company called Grenade to sell a line of iced coffee called "Grumpy Cat Grumppuccino." In 2015, Grenade, without permission, created a new line of "Grumpy Cat Roasted Coffee" and began to sell Grumppuccino T-shirts. These unauthorized uses violated the parties' agreement, and prompted Grumpy Cat Limited to file a copyright lawsuit in federal court.

"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 complaint stated.

Leaving the courthouse after the verdict, an attorney for Grumpy Cat Limited said: "Grumpy Cat feels vindicated and feels the jury reached a just verdict." Grumpy Cat is home, privately laughing.