Willamette Law Online

United States Supreme Court Certiorari Granted


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Pom Wonderful LLC V. Coca-Cola Company

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: January 10, 2014
Case #: 12-761
679 F.3d 1170 (9th Cir. 2012)
Full Text Opinion: http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/12-____-Pom-Wonderful-v.-Coca-Cola-Co.-Cert.-Petition.pdf.pdf

Standing: Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that a private party cannot bring a Lanham Act claim challenging a product label regulated under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The Lanham Act creates a private right of action against anyone who uses a "false or misleading" description or representation "in connection with any goods or services" or who, "in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another person's goods, services, or commercial activities."  15 U.S.C. § 1125(a).  The Act's purpose is to prevent unfair competition.  

Respondent sells a “Pomegranate Blueberry” juice product that consists of only 0.3% pomegranate juice and 0.2% blueberry juice.  Petitioner brought suit under the Lanham Act to challenge Respondent’s deceptive labeling and advertising of this product.  In support of the claim, Petitioner presented evidence that Respondent's label actually misleads consumers regarding the amount of pomegranate and blueberry juice the product contains and that Respondent knew the label would have this misleading effect.  Without considering this evidence, the district court rejected Petitioner's Lanham Act claim on the ground that it was implicitly barred by the FDCA.  The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit confirmed, also concluding that the Lanham Act was silently displaced by the FDCA.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari to sort out conflict with precedent governing how courts should reconcile potentially overlapping federal statutes and to resolve a conflict among the circuits regarding false labeling or advertising claims actionable under the Lanham Act as to their standing and preclusion.