Paul Swanson was quoted in a June 12 Law360 article titled “Attorneys React to High Court’s Pom v. Coke Lanham Act Ruling.” On Thursday, June 12, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal regulations do not preclude companies from bringing false advertising claims under the Lanham Act, which prohibits a number of activities including trademark infringement, trademark dilution and false advertising. This ruling allowed POM Wonderful LLC (POM) to pursue allegations against Coca-Cola Co. POM sued Coca-Cola, claiming that it was losing sales because of Coca-Cola’s labeling and advertising of its Minute Maid brand pomegranate-blueberry juice. The Minute Maid pomegranate-blueberry juice is nearly five times cheaper than POM’s pomegranate-blueberry juice, but only has 0.5 percent pomegranate and blueberry juice combined, while POM’s version is 85 percent pomegranate and 15 percent blueberry juice.
In its groundbreaking POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola case decision, the Supreme Court paved the way for more competitor lawsuits over false and misleading food and beverage labels. Lower courts had previously ruled that federal Lanham Act false advertising claims are precluded by the Food and Drug Administration’s detailed regulations governing the content of fruit juice labels. The Supreme Court unanimously rejected that preclusive result by holding that Lanham Act false advertising claims and FDA regulations serve entirely different, but complementary purposes. The former provides a remedy for unfair competition; the latter focuses on food quality and safety issues. When the POM Wonderful decision is paired with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Lexmark Int’l v. Static Control Components that expands the standing of those who may pursue federal false advertising claims, the predictable outcome will be the filing of many more food and beverage labeling lawsuits.
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