Popcorn Sutton, Jack Daniels Court Battle Over Trademarks

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey is pouring out the legal woes after whiskey maker Popcorn Sutton, a brand first sold in Mason jars to honor its roguish roots, switched their product to a quare-shaped bottle, which infringes on a trademark.

The trademark infringement legal feud pits an industry blue blood against a tiny distiller that proudly claims to carry on the tradition of Appalachian moonshiner Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton.

The irascible Sutton wrote a paperback called “Me and My Likker ” and recorded videos on how to make moonshine.

Sutton, known for his long gray beard and faded overalls, took his own life in 2009 rather than go to prison for making white lightning.

Now, the whiskey maker he inspired is facing its own legal problems.

The owner of the Jack Daniel’s trademark sued the Nashville, Tenn.-based distiller of Popcorn Sutton’s Tennessee White Whiskey. The lawsuit claims the bottling and labeling for the Popcorn Sutton product is “confusingly similar ” to the ubiquitous packaging for Jack Daniel’s.

The suit filed in Nashville wants the Popcorn Sutton bottle removed from the market. It says the new packaging hit the shelves in either late 2012 or early 2013.

“Defendants’ use of the new Popcorn Sutton’s trade dress in connection with their Tennessee white whiskey is likely to cause purchasers and prospective purchasers of the product to believe mistakenly that it is a new Tennessee white whiskey product in the Jack Daniel’s line, ” the lawsuit said.

The suit was filed by California-based Jack Daniel’s Properties Inc., a subsidiary of Brown-Forman Corp.

Jack Daniel’s is the flagship brand of Louisville-based Brown-Forman, which sold 11 million cases of the Black Label Tennessee Whiskey in the fiscal year that ended April 30. Jack Daniel’s whiskey is produced in Lynchburg, Tenn.

Named as defendants are J&M Concepts LLC and Popcorn Sutton Distilling LLC, which operate in Nashville.

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