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"Grumpy Cat" is party to lawsuit


California civil litigation may involve the latest trends and sensations. "Grumpy Cat," the internet feline, who represented many of life's difficulties in social media memes in 2012, is the star of a federal lawsuit in southern California.


Grumpy Cat Limited filed a lawsuit against Grenade Beverage in 2015 for breach of contract, copyright and trademark infringement, trademark dilution, cybersquatting of a website and an accounting. It claimed that it gave Grenade only a limited license to use the cat's image for a Grumpy Cat Grumppuccino iced coffee beverage. However, Grenade allegedly planned to go beyond this license by selling a Grumpy Cat roasted coffee.

Grenade, in turn, filed a countersuit with a breach of contract claim that Grumpy did not meet the terms of this contract and made up reasons to get out of it. Grenade asked for $1 million in damages from the unsuccessful product launch of the Grumppuccino. It also charged breach of fiduciary duty, negligent and intentional misrepresentation and reverse name hijacking. Adding another life to this feline litigation, the owners of Grenade ultimately formed a limited liability company called Grumpy Beverage, which intervened in the case.

Trial began earlier this month. Grumpy Cat, whose actual name is Tardar Sauce, attended the trial in a pet carrier. Her owner sat next to the cat and was expected to show her cat when she testifies. The owner's brother and business partner inadvertently launched this online sensation by accidentally posted a photo of the cat with the grumpy appearance, attributed to an underbite and feline dwarfism.

Grumpy Cat's attorneys argued in court that there was a license agreement for the Grumppuccino, but there were possible talks concerning other future products that they could launch. Grenade said that Grumpy Cat did not offer meaningful support for the product and took other steps to undermine it.

Parties in more routine cases may seek legal representation to help assure that their rights are protected in court. An attorney can also help assure that parties meet their contract obligations to avoid the filing of a lawsuit.

Source: Court House News, "'Grumpy Cat' licensing fight kicks off in California," Nathan Solis, Jan. 17, 2018

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