Pom Wonderful v. Coca-Cola Co.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 05-17-2012
  • Case #: 10-55861
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge O'Scannlain for the Court; Circuit Judges Nelson and N. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

Juice producers/bottlers may not state a false-advertising claim under the Lanham Act because the FDA and FDCA regulate how manufacturers may name and label its juices.

The issue in this case is whether a juice bottling company can make a claim that the name and labeling of a competitor’s juice is deceptive under the Lanham Act. Pom Wonderful LLC makes a pomegranate juice blend, as does Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola began producing “Pomegranate Blueberry Blend of 5 Juices.” The juice only contained .3% pomegranate juice and .2% blueberry juice. The juice had 99.4% apple juice and .1% raspberry juice. Pom claimed that the name and labeling of Coca-Cola’s juice was a violation of the false-advertising provision of the Lanham Act. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”) regulates food and beverage labeling. “A private plaintiff may sue under the Lanham Act, but the FDCA may be enforced only by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) or the Department of Justice. When the Lanham Act and FDCA conflict, “[c]ourts try to give as much effect to both statutes as possible,” to do so, the court must focus on the circumstances of the case. The name chosen by Coca-Cola is allowed by the FDA because the name of a juice does not have to be the predominate juice. The labeling Coca-Cola chose for the beverage is allowed by the FDCA because it is not presented in a way that is likely to be misread or misunderstood by the ordinary individual. The Lanham Act may not be used to undermine or preempt the FDA or FDCA.

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