With millions of dollars in the bank, Grumpy Cat shouldn’t have much too frown about these days.
But it turns out the famous feline’s legal team won’t stand for any merchandising deals gone awry. Now they’re involved in a legal dispute with a beverage company.
In 2013, Grumpy Cat Ltd, the Ohio-based company that owns the rights to the cat’s (real name: Tardar Sauce) likeness gave Grenade Beverage the right to use the cat’s name and image on “a line of Grumpy Cat-branded coffee products,” in exchange for royalties and a cash advance. According to the lawsuit filed before a U.S. District Court in California on Friday, the original agreement allowed the beverage company to create a drink called “Grumpy Cat Grumppuccino,” and any products beyond that, would require further negotiations with, and approval from, Grumpy Cat Ltd.
But apparently, Grenade has overstepped the boundaries of said agreement by distributing other Grumpy Cat branded products in the form of several varieties of roast coffee beans. Before filing a lawsuit, Grumpy Cat Ltd repeatedly told Grenade not to move forward with the production and distribution of the new Grumpy Cat branded coffee beans, reports Consumerist.
“You are not authorized to proceed with the ground coffee product, and your posting of these products for sale will constitute a clear breach of the subject licensing agreement,” reads a Nov. 24 e-mail to Grenade noted in the complaint. “Do NOT proceed with the posting of the ground coffee products.”
Grenade ignored warnings and began advertising the coffee beans online last month. As of now, they are available to purchase on GrumpyCat.com—which, somewhat confusingly, is owned by Grenade and not Grumpy Cat Ltd. The plaintiffs are also demanding that the defendant immediately transfer and turn over rights to the “infringing website.”
“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,” reads the beginning the lawsuit.
Grumpy Cat Ltd has also accused Grenade of selling unauthorized T-shirts with Tardar Sauce’s likeness and “failing to provide accurate and timely accounting of sales and royalties.” They seeking damages "proximately caused by the defendants' unlawful use of the domain name, or, in the alternative, statutory damages of $100,000." Grumpy Cat is also requesting a jury trial.
When contacted by Eater, Paul Sandford, a partner in Grenade and a named defendant in the lawsuit, denied any wrongdoing on his brand’s part. "Can't comment other than to say there isn't a single factual allegation contained in the entire complaint, not one," Sandford told Eater via email. "Stay tuned."