Supreme Court: POM Can Sue Coke for False Advertising

minute-maid-pom-blueThe U.S. Supreme Court said on Thursday that POM Wonderful may continue with its false advertising lawsuit against The Coca-Cola Co.

The Court ruled 8-0 (with Justice Stephen Breyer recusing) in favor of POM, stating that the company may support its claims under the federal Lanham Act, which covers false advertising.

POM claims that Coke misleads consumers with its Minute Maid “Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of 5 Juices,” which features images of a pomegranate and blueberries on the label. The product, however, is made with 99 percent apple and grape juice, and only contains 0.3 percent pomegranate juice and 0.2 percent blueberry juice.

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, where the case began in 2008, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had previously ruled in Coke’s favor because the label at hand complies with the regulations of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, The Supreme Court held a different opinion.

“The Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and the Lanham Act complement each other in the federal regulation of misleading labels,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. “Congress did not intend the FDCA to preclude Lanham Act suits like POM’s.”

Tim Kelly, partner and chair of the trademark practice group at Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto LLP, pointed out in a statement the implications of the court’s ruling for future cases with similar claims.

“The Court makes clear that competitors are entitled to challenge consumer-facing representations — even where such representations are consistent with another Federal statute — in order to ensure that marketplace competition remains fair,” Kelly said in the statement.