According to the self-mythologizing copy on its website, the skull-shaped bottle for Crystal Head vodka was based on the crystal skulls used by the Aztec, Maya, and Navajo to "project positive energy and enlightenment." Crystal Head founder Dan Aykroyd and designer John Alexander collaborated on the bottle which, as you probably know, looks like a glass human skull but, in addition to holding its expensive booze, is also meant to "reflect the legend's message of spiritual power and enlightenment."
But Aykroyd seems to have misplaced some of the positive energy inherent in the design and has decided that he alone is the only one who is allowed to appropriate this particular aspect of Native American culture—or this part of the human body. According to Bobby and Rose Powers, the couple who make Bloody Hell Hot Sauce in the family kitchen, Aykroyd has threatened to sue for trademark infringement if they don't destroy all of their current inventory. Why? Because they sell it in a glass skull bottle.
"I can't believe this big company is trying to shut down a small family business," Bobby Powers told the Daily Mail. "They don't just want us to stop selling our sauce, they want us to destroy absolutely everything." The couple is admittedly freaking out, both because they just ordered 10,000 skull-shaped bottles and because they have no idea how they would pay Aykroyd if they lost a lawsuit. Bobby Powers says that this has been the couple's sole source of income; so far, they have sold 6,000 bottles of the sauce.
"I can say that this is a very worrying time for my family and myself," Bobby Powers told MUNCHIES. "We just want to be left alone to continue selling our product and live our simple lives from it. We had never heard of Crystal Head vodka before we started selling hot sauce and now I wish I never had!"
This all started when they inadvertently alerted Aykroyd to their existence: Bobby said he contacted the actor about possibly joining forces to launch a combination skull-shaped Bloody Mary. It didn't go as he planned. Although Aykroyd may not have known about Bloody Hell Hot Sauce, others who saw the bottle have made the comparison between the two brands—but that doesn't mean that they're getting them confused. "The big allure here is obviously the bottle," hot sauce aficionado Jeff Smith said in a YouTube review of the sauce. "It's pretty damn cool packaging. It reminds me of Crystal Head or Crystal Skull vodka, the one that comes in the big skull head bottle."
MUNCHIES has reached out to both Crystal Head and Bloody Hell Hot Sauce for comment.
Aykroyd and his attorneys don't have a problem going after any product that might remind customers of his vodka brand. In March, he and Crystal Head's manufacturer, Globefill, won their second lawsuit against KAH Tequila, which sells its liquor in painted, skull-shaped Day of the Dead ceramic bottles.
According to Law360, a jury deliberated for four hours before unanimously ruling in favor of Crystal Head, finding that Elements Spirits "had intentionally infringed Globefill's trade dress by making and selling KAH brand tequila," and deciding that the company had intentionally set out to confuse consumers. Aykroyd told the outlet that it was a "'privilege' to see his tax dollars at work."
So, yeah, about that positive energy thing…