Imagine spending your childhood striving for admittance to the best university, white-knuckling through your university years so you could attain a postgraduate degree and then, halfway during your PhD hooding ceremony, having the grim realisation that you’ll never be as successful as an internet cat. The eternally surly Grumpy Cat has already made an estimated $100 million real-life dollars in her short life and, after a jury ruled in her favour yesterday, she just collected another $710,000.
In 2013, the year after all of our mothers started posting Grumpy Cat memes on Facebook, Grenade Beverage made a $150,000 deal with the cat’s owners, Bryan and Tabitha Bundesen, to release a line of coffee beverages with her face (yes, Grumpy Cat is a girl) on the label. The iced coffee was sold under the name Grumpy Cat’s Grumppuccino, because everything has been terrible for longer than we realised. The deal was fine until Grenade started slinging Grumpy-branded roasted coffee and Grumppuccino T-shirts as well, which the Bundesens said went well beyond the parameters of their agreement. Grumpy Cat Limited swiftly filed a lawsuit for breach of contract.
“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,” Grumpy Cat Limited said in its complaint.
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Grenade Beverage’s owners, Nick and Paul Sandford, quickly countersued, alleging that Grumpy Cat Ltd had failed to mention the brand as often as they’d agreed upon. “Besides not doing enough on social media to promote the iced coffee—only 17 posts—the Sandfords’ attorney noted an appearance on a Fox News show to promote the product was a ‘disaster’ because Grumpy Cat’s people did not refer to the talking points they’d been given,” Courthouse News reports.
“They were supposed to say “Watch out Starbucks. The cat’s coming for it’ [but did not].” According to the Sandfords’ attorney, Brian Kinder, that’s when the father and son knew that they were not truly partners with Grumpy Cat.
The trial began on January 18, and the signature cat was present in the courtroom. “Grumpy Cat, real name Tardar Sauce, was carried into the federal courtroom in a pet carrier but did not take the witness stand,” Courthouse News wrote. “Tabatha Bundesen sat next to the carrier and is expected to show the jury of five men and three women her pet when she testifies.”
On Monday, an eight-person jury in California sided with Grumpy Cat and the Bundesens, awarding them $710,001 for copyright and trademark infringement (the extra buck was for “nominal damages”) relating to the unauthorised Grumppuccino products.
During that ill-fated appearance on Fox and Friends, then-host Alisyn Camerota asked why Grumpy Cat is so grumpy. “It’s just her face,” Bryan Bundesen said. A face that has earned millions and millions (and millions) of dollars.
So. How’s that tenure track looking?