Battle of the Juices

June 17, 2014

The Supreme Court announced that juice maker POM Wonderful may proceed with its false advertising lawsuit against Coca-Cola, reports the Washington Examiner.

POM Wonderful is a Los Angeles-based company that produces pomegranate juice. The drink maker sued Coca Cola over Coke's labeling of a drink as a "Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of 5 Juices." The words "Pomegranate Blueberry" are written in large text on the label, which also identifies the drink as a "100 percent juice product." That, POM Wonderful says, is misleading, as 99 percent of the "Pomegranate Blueberry" drink is actually apple or grape juice.

The justices agreed 8-0 that the case should proceed:

  • Lower courts had ruled in Coke's favor, because the label technically complies with Food and Drug Administration regulations. At the Supreme Court, however, the justices expressed concern during oral arguments that the drink was misleading.
  • The fact that the label complies with FDA rules, said the justices, does not mean that the label is free from additional, false advertising scrutiny.

The decision has implications beyond food and drink labeling. According to Brett Heavner, an intellectual property lawyer, the decision could make it difficult for businesses in other regulated industries -- such as banking and telecommunications -- to defend against false-advertising lawsuits on the grounds that their ads comply with applicable federal law, such as FDIC or FCC regulations.

The food and beverage industry watched the case closely, as many fear that food and drink makers could now become the targets of excessive litigation.

Source: Sean Lengell, "Supreme Court Weighs in on this Juice Spat," Washington Examiner, June 12, 2014.

 

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