Heineken Upset About Phoenix Man Selling "Heinie Sniff'n" Dog Toy, Lawsuit Claims

A Phoenix dog-toy manufacturer who was once involved in a lawsuit with Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch over his dog toy called "Buttwiper" is now involved in a federal lawsuit with another brewer.

This time, a lawsuit filed on behalf of Stephen Sacra's Phoenix-based company, VIP Products, claims that an attorney for Heineken got upset about his "Heinie Sniff'n" dog toy.

According to the federal lawsuit, one of VIP Products' online retail customers got a call from a Heineken attorney, who claimed that the "Heinie Sniff'n" toy infringed on Heineken's trademarks, and requested that the company remove all pictures of the dog toy from its website.

As you can see from the photo of the toy and the adorable dog below, the "Heinie Sniff'n" toy does resemble a Heineken beer bottle.

VIP Products contends that this is a "parody dog toy," and the lawsuit admits, "VIP designed the HeinieSniff'n label to incorporate a few elements of the Heineken trade dress.

"On the other hand, VIP included drastic differences from the Heineken marks and trade dress in the HeinieSniff'n label to make it clear that it was a parody," the lawsuit continues. "For example, VIP selected the words 'HeinieSniff'n' because they are clearly not 'Heineken', included the humorous phrase 'Premium Sniffer' on the toy in two locations, and placed two large cartoon dogs on the front label."

Therefore, VIP Products wants a judgment declaring that its parody toy design doesn't infringe on Heineken's trademarks.

Unfortunately for Sacra and his company, he hasn't been very successful in the courtroom. A lawsuit against Heineken in 2009 over the same toy was dismissed after failing to serve the complaint.

A lawsuit against the maker of Kendall-Jackson wines -- using a very similar claim, but over the "Kennel Relax'n" dog toy -- also appears to have been dismissed.

And, in 2008, Anheuser-Busch was granted a preliminary injunction against the company over its "Buttwiper" toy.

The most recent lawsuit from VIP Products was just filed in federal court in Arizona on Wednesday.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley