In 2015 Grumpy Cat’s owners sued Los Angeles-based Grenade Beverage for violating an agreement allowing the beverage company to license Grumpy Cat’s image on a specific line of iced coffee drinks called “Grumppuccino.”
The lawsuit alleges that the beverage company started selling unauthorized Grumpy Cat Roasted Coffee and Grumppuccino T-shirts. The lawsuit also claims that the company failed to provide an accounting of sales and profits and failed to pay a percentage of Grumppuccino profits.
For damages, Grumpy Cat sought $150,000 for four violations, although damages can be tripled for copyright violations. In addition, Grumpy Cat sought profits from Grumpy Cat-related products that were sold by Grenade, plus legal fees.
Grenade countersued on the grounds that Grumpy Cat had not held up their side of the deal by failing to mention the “Grumppuccino” brand enough on social media. But Grumpy Cat prevailed when an eight-person federal court jury in Santa Ana, Calif., awarded Grumpy Cat Limited $710,001 in damages.
Why Did Grumpy Cat Sue in Federal Court?
Any plaintiff seeking to sue for copyright violations must bring the claim in federal court because Section 1338 of Title 28 of the United States Code confers upon the federal district courts exclusive jurisdiction over claims of copyright infringement. That is, a copyright claim can never be adjudicated in a state court.
Federal courts also have original jurisdiction in trademark cases. 28 U.S. Code § 1338(b). Original jurisdiction refers to the authority to hear cases for the first time. However, federal courts do not have exclusive jurisdiction of trademark claims. This means that trademark claims can potentially be adjudicated in state courts. When both federal and state courts can both hear a claim, they have concurrent jurisdiction over such matters. In reality, however, most trademark cases are heard by federal courts.