Last Thursday (June 19), the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided that the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”) does not preclude POM Wonderful’s deceptive labeling claims under the Lanham Act against Coca-Cola.  POM Wonderful LLC v. Coca-Cola Co., No. 12-761, slip op. at 2 (June 12, 2014).  POM sued Coca-Cola under the Lanham

In arguments before the Supreme Court earlier this week, Coca-Cola asserted that its label for Minute Maid “Pomegranate Blueberry” juice, which contained a “flavored blend of 5 juices” complies with FDA rules and therefore, Coca-Cola could not be sued by a competitor for using an allegedly “misleading” label under the Lanham Act.  Years ago, the

The U.S. Supreme Court recently granted certiorari to hear an appeal filed by POM Wonderful LLC in connection with its suit against The Coca-Cola Company under the Lanham Act alleging that Coca-Cola’s  “Pomegranate  Blueberry” juice labels are misleading. POM Wonderful asserts these labels are misleading due to the fact that, despite the name, the product contains very little pomegranate  or blueberry juice. Instead, the juice contains approximately  99 percent grape and apple juice, and only 0.3 percent pomegranate  juice and 0.2 percent blueberry juice.

Coca-Cola argues that the product label has images of all five fruits contained in the beverage and that the name “Pomegranate  Blueberry – flavored blend of 5 juices” clearly informs consumers that the product is a blend of fruits and tastes like pomegranate  and blueberry juice. In essence, Coca-Cola asserted that its labels are technically in compliance with Food and Drug Administration  (FDA) regulations.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Coca-Cola on the ground that POM Wonderful does not have the right to challenge FDA regulations that allow Coca-Cola to label the beverage as Pomegranate  Blueberry juice. The Ninth Circuit asserted that the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) wholly regulates food and beverage labeling and as such, a plaintiff cannot sue under the Lanham Act to enforce the FDCA or its regulations or to interpret ambiguous FDA regulations. In other words, according to the Ninth Circuit, the FDCA expressly preempts product labeling claims, thus leaving no room for a company to challenge a competitor’s label under the Lanham Act.

Continue Reading High Court to Weigh In on Labeling Dispute Between Competing Beverage Companies