Saturday, June 14, 2014

Pom Wonderful Wins

It’s not every day that the U.S. Supreme Court releases an opinion that may increase business competition while also protecting consumers from misleading product labels.  Nor is it every day that this Court issues an opinion joined by every judge taking part in the decision, although it deals with business practices and consumer protection.  But last Thursday, when the Court decided Pom Wonderful LLC v. Coca-Cola Co., was one of those days.

POM Wonderful LLC, which produces and sells a pomegranate-blueberry juice blend, had sued Coca-Cola Company under the Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. Section 1125), claiming that Coca Cola's labeling of its competing Minute Maid juice blend product deceived consumers into believing the product contained primarily pomegranate and blueberry juice.  Its prominent display of "POMEGRANATE BLUEBERRY" on two separate lines on the front label, while the product actually contained 99.4% apple and grape juices and only 0.3% pomegranate juice and 0.2 % blueberry juice, had injured POM Wonderful in this competitive sales market.  Pom Wonderful sought both damages and injunctive relief. 

Coca Cola tried to counter with the argument that only the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. Sections 321(f) and 331)) and its beverage labeling regulations provided by the Food and Drug Administration control beverage labeling, and preclude such suits under the Lanham Act.  But the Supreme Court wasn't buying it.  This was not a preemption case about a state labeling law, the Court stated, but a case of two federal laws that "complement each other in the federal regulation of misleading labels."  Pom Wonderful's suit will now go forward in the lower courts.

SCOTUSblog's analysis of the decision is here


Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat

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