Sheehan & Associates, P.L.C.

Deceptive labeling case involves juice product

Michigan residents who purchase pomegranate juice products may be interested in a Supreme Court decision related to false advertising claims by Pom Wonderful. The Court ruled unanimously in favor of allowing the company to proceed with legal action against the Minute Maid unit of Coke. Pom claims that the labeling on Coke's Pomegranate Blueberry beverage misleads consumers because apple and grape juices account for 99 percent of the product's content. Pomegranate juice content in the product is .3 percent, and blueberry content is .2 percent. Raspberry accounts for .1 percent of the product. Pom's suit highlights the fact that labeling for the product uses larger type to note the pomegranate and blueberry aspects of the juice and that imagery uses a large, prominent picture of a pomegranate.

Lower courts ruled on behalf of Coke, noting that laws governing food labeling prevented private legal action under trademark law. Representatives of the food and beverage industry have indicated their concerns over this suit creating uncertainty for companies about labeling rules. Additionally, there is concern about an increase in legal action.

In writing the opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy indicated that food and drug labeling laws don't prevent unfair competition suits under another law. The Landham Act permits suits based on unfair competition due to misleading or false claims. The Justice noted that the laws enhance each other with regard to label regulation. Additionally, he had indicated at the time of April oral arguments that labeling of the product in question misled him, causing him to believe that the product was primarily composed of pomegranate juice.

Business litigation can be challenging, and the assistance of an attorney in evaluating the merit of this type of action may be helpful. The attorney can provide an overview as issues such as unfair competition and misleading claims are explored.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Pom Wonderful Lawsuit Could Open Door For Litigation Against Deceptive Labeling", Sam Hananel, June 12, 2014

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