Grumpy Cat's Owners Won $710,000 In A Copyright Infringement Suit After Claiming A Company Used Her Likeness Without Permission
Earlier this week, an eight-person jury ruled in favor of Tabatha Bundesen, the owner of feline internet sensation Grumpy Cat, and head of Grumpy Cat Ldt. The copyright infringement suit filed three years ago against Grenade Beverages alleged the maker of the Grumpy Cat Grumppuccino used a likeness of the cat — whose formal name is Tardar Sauce — to sell other products beyond the Grumpuccino beverage without permission. Specifically mentioned in the suit were, according to NPR, a "Grumpy Cat line of coffee grounds and Grumppuccino T-shirts."
After Grumpy Cat Ldt. initially sued Grenade Beverages in 2013 on the grounds that they were allegedly using Grumpy Cat's image without permission, the company countersued for $12 million in damages for lost revenue from the Grumpuccinno, as they claimed Grumpy Cat (and her crew) did not do enough to promote the new coffee drink. Grenade Beverages also alleged their decision to enter into a partnership with the internet icon's brand was swayed by word that a cinematic release of a Grumpy Cat movie was in the works — not the Lifetime one that aired, but one starring Will Ferrell and Jack Black — which has yet to come to fruition.
In their countersuit, Grenade Beverages also claimed Bryan Bundesen, brother of Tabatha Bundensen (so, Grumpy Cat's uncle?) allegedly posted an unauthorized photo of the Grumppuccino before it was ready to be released to the public, thereby ruining the official launch. Further, they claimed the Grumpy Cat posse allegedly did not spend enough time promoting the beverage, as had previously been agreed upon, and neglected to say “Watch out Starbucks. The cat’s coming for it,” during an appearance on Fox and Friends.
In the end, the allegations in the countersuit weren't enough to prevail against the sullen kitty's legal team, which was awarded $710,000 for copyright and trademark infringement. Courthouse News reports Grumpy Cat was not in attendance for closing remarks, but "...did make a brief appearance earlier in the trial."
If you're wondering why a cat lawsuit is making headlines (or, rather, why one is taking place at all) perhaps you could use a little refresher on arguably the internet's most influential quadruped. Grumpy cat is a five-year-old feline from Arizona whose face appears to have a permanent scowl due to an underbite and feline dwarfism. She first captured the hearts of the carefree and curmudgeonly alike after her photo was posted by Bryan Bundesen on Reddit in 2012.
In the almost six years since the original post, Grumpy Cat's success is hardly anything to frown about. She has made guest appearances on television shows like Today, Good Morning America, The Soup, The Bachelorette, and Anderson Live. She has appeared in commercials for Friskies and Honey Nut Cheerios, and stars in her own made-for-tv movie called Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever. President Barack Obama even compared her to the GOP at the Democratic National Committee Women's Leadership Forum in 2015 (which then prompted this unforgettable impression. Sigh.)
Realistically, this may be just the beginning of kitty court cases, as Grumpy Cat is far from the only unique kitty to win the world over. Other notable member of the cat meme club include Lil Bub, Nyan Cat, and Keyboard Cat — all of whom appeared in documentary Lil Bub & Friendz, and are managed by Ben Lashes, meme agent to the (feline) stars.
It's no secret that the internet is kind of a weird place, and there is not much reason behind many of the things that become memes (eating Tide Pods, anyone?). But, out of everything the web has made a sensation, the exploding popularity of the frowning, smushy-faced fuzzball that is Grumpy Cat makes a lot of sense. And now she can add yet another success to her ever-growing purr-fessional resume: winning a lucrative lawsuit. But real talk, the $710,000 is small change compared to the almost $100 million she made in the first two years of her career.