Delev & Associates, LLC

Intellectual property dispute makes iconic cat’s owners grumpy

Products or ideas that are not tangible objects, but are rather inventions of the mind, can be protected by law in the same way that a physical product’s design may be patented and protected. Intellectual property that Ohio businesspeople might register or copyright can include written material, music, art or popular culture references. For example, a music artist may want to copyright his or her work so the lyrics or music are not used or distributed by someone else without approval.

Internet “memes” – images or ideas that have become popular online – can also fall under the intellectual property category, especially if these memes have the potential to become commercially successful. Grenade Beverage recently became the focus of a lawsuit claiming the company has committed a breach of contract with Grumpy Cat Limited.

The lawsuit points out that the beverage company has failed to provide royalty payments on new roasted coffee ground products and that those products were not approved to receive the Grumpy Cat name. The owners of the grouchy-looking feline are asking for damages related to infringement of the cat’s trademarked image, as well as the unauthorized sale of these products.

This litigation may serve as an example of the importance of gaining approval with copyrighted entities before moving forward. It can also warn copyright owners of the possibility of another person or business using their material without the owner’s permission. A business law attorney with experience in intellectual property law may be able to protect the rights of those with disputes over trademarks and copyrights.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Grumpy Cat Brings Grumpy Lawsuit Over Infringement of Intellectual Property," Eriq Gardner, Dec. 14, 2015

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