It was a unanimous vote for POM (though Justice Stephen Breyer sat this one out), and one that could mean more lawsuits like this against food makers who perhaps fudge it a bit on labels, reports the Associated Press. And if there’s something we consumers hate, it’s fudging. Unless that means eating actual fudge, because yum.
Leading up to this decision, other courts had come down on Coke’s side because the label complies with Food and Drug Administration laws and regulations.
But that’s not enough, the Supreme Court said — just because the label technically conforms to the rules doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not misleading to consumers.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court, saying that FDA laws and trademark laws complement each other in how they regulate misleading labels. He wrote that Congress probably didn’t mean for FDA law to get in the way of trademark actions in the food and beverage arena because that would mean “less policing” of misleading labels than in other industries.
POM originally filed suit against Coke’s Minute Maid back in 2008, when it started to see its business slide away to the “Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of 5 Juices” drink, which has a label prominently featuring the word Pomegranate” and a big photo of a pomegranate nestled among other fruits.
POM claimed that the product only had 0.3% pomegranate and 0.2% blueberry, and as such, shouldn’t be labeled like it was abounding in the ingredients.
Coke had claimed that it’d be a “logistical nightmare” if food companies were forced to change labels every time there was a private lawsuit. It has the view that the federal government should be the one making sure labels are right, not competitors in the industry.
POM is also on the docket in another case in the federal court of appeals, where it’s trying to defend its ads against claims that they’re misleading to consumers. Quite the pot and kettle situation.
Court Rules for Pom Wonderful in Dispute With Coke [Associated Press]