FDCA precludes Lanham Act claims in POM’s case against Coca-Cola’s juice labeling

9th Circuit decision illustrates difficulty of plaintiff success on false advertising claims in industries regulated by FDA

After The Coca-Cola Co.’s Minute Maid division started marketing a pomegranate-blueberry juice blend in September 2007, POM Wonderful began losing sales of its own pomegranate-blueberry beverage.

One year later, POM sued Coca-Cola in federal district court, alleging that Coke’s naming and labeling of a beverage consisting mostly of apple and grape juices as pomegranate-blueberry juice misled consumers in violation of the false advertising provisions of the federal Lanham Act and two California statutes. Coca-Cola’s product contains 99.4 percent apple and grape juices, 0.3 percent pomegranate juice, 0.2 percent blueberry juice and 0.1 percent raspberry juice.

Authority Upheld

FDA regulations permit marketers of blends to identify their products through the juices that provide their characterizing flavors, regardless of whether these juices predominate by volume. But POM contended that the name and specific elements of the labeling of Coke’s product was misleading, including the fruit depicted and the font size of the wording. For example, POM sought to prevent “Pomegranate Blueberry” from appearing in larger, more conspicuous type than “Flavored Blend of 5 Juices.”

Michael Kozubek

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