Duck Commander Sued Over ‘Si’s Iced Tea’

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     LOUISVILLE. Ky. (CN) – The family business behind the popular “Duck Dynasty” TV show induced a tea and juice producer into paying for licensing rights to patriarch Si Robertson before breaching the agreement, the drinkmaker claims in federal court.
     Chinook USA LLC sued Duck Commander Inc., best known as the family business on the A&E television show, and four other companies – Dahlen Associates Inc., 3292 Brands LLC, Go-Time Energy LLC, and Checkered Flag Business LLC.
     Chinook makes “ready-to-drink” beverages like tea and fruit drinks. It launched in January 2014 with its first and main client being Duck Commander. Chinook accuses the “Duck Dynasty” group of not honoring the parties’ exclusive license agreement.
     “Sheer economic greed prompted this corporate marketing juggernaut to contract with licensing agents for the purpose of deliberately luring a host [of] licensees from across America into a Rubix’s cube-like web of license agreements,” the lawsuit states. “Within a year sixty-seven such licensees were consummated. As the proof will show, these licenses were consummated without regard to whether there were conflicting commitments among the licensees.”
     Licensing agents for Duck Commander breached an exclusive agreement with Chinook by giving a license to Go-Time and Checkered Flag for their energy shots and vitamin water products, Chinook claims.
     Trying to capitalize on the popularity of the reality show, Dahlen and its successor 3292 Brands set out to turn the Duck Commander image into “an unrestrained marketing juggernaut,” the complaint states.
     Chinook entered into a 5-year license with Duck Commander, wherein Chinook was granted exclusive rights to use the Si Robertson and Uncle Si properties for iced tea in North America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Australia.
     Chinook was required to pay $1 million up front and a base rate of 4.5 percent royalties to licensors, which could reach as high as 6 percent depending on sales, the complaint states.
     Duck Commander breached the exclusive license with Chinook when it did not promote Si’s Iced Tea at NCAA and NASCAR events and by selling Go-Time ready-to-drink energy shots in the Duck Commander Company store, the lawsuits alleges.
     “Whatever agreement that was entered into between Go-Time and Duck Commander to permit Go-Time to produce and market energy shots, was a direct and intentional breach of Chinook’s license agreement,” the complaint states.
     Checkered Flag was also granted a Duck Commander license for vitamin water, a competing ready-to-drink product, according to the complaint.
     “Duck Commander breached the exclusivity clause by contracting with Go-Time and with Checkered Flag to produce and market RTDs without amending the license agreement,” the complaint states.
     Chinook also claims it was denied contractually-required meetings with the Robertson family. The beverage company seeks $4.5 million and punitive damages for breach of contract, fraud, civil conspiracy and interference with business opportunity.
     Duck Commander is based in West Monroe, La. It was founded by Phil Robertson in the 1970s and slowly grew in popularity, culminating in the 2012 premier of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty.”
     “As time passed the Duck Commander marketing brand broadened around the personalities of Phil Robertson plus his brother Si and his three sons, Jase, Willie and Jep,” the complaint states. “The Robertson men began to be portrayed to the American public as possessing honest family values that was accompanied by the ritual of dinner table family prayer.”
     Chinook is represented by J. Bruce Miller in Louisville, Ky.