In 2012 a cat that the internet dubbed Grumpy Cat became an internet sensation after going viral. The Internet fawned over the cat’s permanent frown and grumpy appearance and, as a result, the cat has nearly nine million followers on Facebook.
Now the cat is back in the public eye for a different reason.
The cat, whose real name is Tardar Sauce, has been at the center of a three-year-long court battle. Last week the case ended and Grumpy Cat has garnered international attention once more.
Cappuccino lands beverage company in hot water
In 2013, Grenade Beverage Company signed a contract with Grumpy Cat Limited, the company who owns the copyrights to the cat’s brand. Grumpy Cat Limited authorized the beverage company to use the cat’s image on their “Grumpy Cat Grumpuccino” beverage.
But Grenade Beverage Company took it one step further. They went on to use the cat’s face in some of their other products. Here’s the problem. The company only had the authorization to use Grumpy Cat Limited’s image on the Grumpuccino and nothing else.
Lawsuit claims that memes have rights too
In 2015 Grumpy Cat’s owner sued the beverage company for copyright infringement when they used the feline’s face without authorization. In response, the company countersued. They argued that Grumpy Cat Limited breached the terms of the original contract when they didn’t promote the iced coffee as they had agreed to.
The cat that prevailed in the courtroom
Last week an eight-panel jury found in favor of Grumpy Cat Limited when they determined that Grenade Beverage Company infringed on the feline’s copyright. As a result, Grumpy Cat’s company was awarded $710,001 in damages. Moral of the story is this. If you want to use a meme to sell something, you had better get the copyright owner’s permission.
The case has set a precedent that memes have intellectual property rights, even if they’re a viral internet sensation. It is possible that this verdict will now make the grumpiest cat on the internet smile.