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Be Like Grumpy Cat

News recently hit the wires that Grumpy Cat Ltd., the company behind the Grumpy Cat Internet “person”ality, was awarded over $700,000 in a trademark and copyright infringement lawsuit. The defendant was a licensee who was found to have overstepped the terms of a trademark and copyright license agreement relating to iced-coffee, including by selling “Grumppuccinos.”

For those unfamiliar with this character, Grumpy Cat is an Internet sensation, known particularly for YouTube videos featuring her displeased mug. However, what separates Grumpy Cat from other fly-bynight online personalities are the practical steps Grumpy Cat’s owners took to protect and monetize the intellectual property associated with her persona. Since arriving on the scene, the business entity behind the feline has been very savvy in seeking trademark registration for the GRUMPY CAT name and her image for key product categories. The Grumpy Cat website features various merchandise for sale, including co-branded Gund GRUMPY CAT plush toys, books and paper products, and pet toys.

Interested in making your pet into the next YouTube sensation? Here are five steps to consider:

1. Think like a marketer: Come up with a catchy – and protectable -- name for your pet’s social media accounts.

2. Promote: Have your pet comment on current events with sharable memes featuring her furry face and brand.

3. Protect: If your pet’s antics have traction, consider filing for trademark protection for the entertainment services and potential licensable merchandise.

4. Monetize: Seek licensing opportunities – for the images and videos, and for co-branded merchandise.

5. Police and enforce: Monitor third-party usage, and move promptly to take down infringing content. Who knows – done right, your pet may end up making you some serious scratch!

© 2023 Sterne KesslerNational Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 43

About this Author

Monica Riva Talley, Trademark Attorney, Sterne Kessler, Law Firm

Monica Talley brings more than 17 years of experience protecting some of the world's most recognizable brands to her role as a Director in the firm’s Trademark practice.  Ms. Talley specializes in strategic trademark counseling and portfolio management, developing anti-counterfeiting solutions and strategies, and trademark enforcement. 

Ranked as one of the leading trademark prosecution and strategy attorneys in Washington, DC, Ms. Talley is particularly noted for her global brand protection and commercialization strategies, and is lauded by clients for utilizing “her broad IP savvy...