United States Supreme Court
PARTIES: Pom Wonderful, LLC
DEFENDANTS: The Coca-Cola Company
STATEMENT OF ISSUES: Pom Company filed a case of unfair competition against Coca Cola based on Lanham Act. Pom and Coca Cola companies are in the same market of beverages. In the juice segment Pom was the main marketer of juices containing high content of pomegranate. Then Coca Cola launched a juice that contained 99.4% apple juice, 0.3% pomegranate juice, 0.2% blueberry juice and 0.1% raspberry juice. The juice label had the description of an “Enhanced Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored 100% Juice Blend”. Also, the Coca Cola juice had a label with a picture of a half pomegranate with blueberries, grapes and raspberries and with smaller prints of the words “flavored blend of 5 juices” and “from concentrate with added ingredients”. The case went through to Supreme Court to determine the application of two federal statutes. The plaintiff and defense argued on the misleading labelling under Lanham Act. On the other hand, Coca Cola had argued and won through district and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on the preeminence of Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) (“POM Wonderful LLc v. Coca-Cola Co.”).
ARGUMENTS OF THE PLAINTIFFS : POM argued that the federal Lanham Act in 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), prohibits any marketer of goods who from using names, words, terms, symbols and/or devices that misrepresent and mislead the actual content of the good. The misrepresentation can either be in the qualities, characteristics or nature of the product. Under the statute, a competitor can file a case of unfair competition for misleading or false advertising including labelling. Thus, Pom argued Coca-Cola was misleading consumers on the actual proportions of pomegranate and blueberry juice yet it contained more of apple and grape juice, which are cheaper. Thus, false representation had decreased its sales, and Pom sought to be compensated and Coca-Coca to stop the act or the injunctive relief (“POM Wonderful LLc v. Coca-Cola Co.”).
ARGUMENTS OF THE DEFENSE: Coca Cola argued the case on the basis that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had exclusive regulation rights on food labelling (Bi 983). Therefore, the Lanham Act did not apply because enforcement was under FDCA mandated to FDA. Also, the defense team claimed that private parties could not enforce the FCDA laws. Misbranding of food foods is described in FDCA 21 U.S. Code § 343 and 404 (a) prohibits misbranding including labelling that is false or misleading (“POM Wonderful LLc v. Coca-Cola Co.”).
HOLDING OF THE COURT: The Supreme Court argued that the mandate of FDA to enforce did not prevent the application of Lanham Act from private or competing entities (“POM Wonderful LLc v. Coca-Cola Co.”). Thus the two laws needed to complement and neither could preclude the other (Garrity and Tyler n, p).
RATIONALE: Despite the two federal laws describing the cases of unfair competition, Lanham Act was intended for private litigation and enforcement by public or consumers. The mandate of FDA to enforce under FDCA does not prevent application of Lanham Act (Radis 405).
“POM Wonderful LLc v. Coca-Cola Co.” Findlaw, Thomson Reuters, caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/12-761.html. Web. 19th April. 2019. <https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/12-761.html>
Garrity, Paul W., and Tyler E. Baker. “Pom v. Coke At The Supreme Court: FDA Approval May Not Preempt False Advertising Challenges To Labels.” CCBJ, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, 27 May 2014, ccbjournal.com/articles/pom-v-coke-supreme-court-fda-approval-may-not-preempt-false-advertising-challenges-la. Web. 19th April. 2019. https://ccbjournal.com/articles/pom-v-coke-supreme-court-fda-approval-may-not-preempt-false-advertising-challenges-la
Bi, Kathryn. “What Is “False or Misleading”Off-Label Promotion?” The University of Chicago Law Review, vol. 82 , 2019, pp. 975-1021
Radis, Jennifer Thurswell. “The Lanham Act’s Wonderful Complement to the FDCA: POM Wonderful V.Coca-Cola Enhances Protection Against Misleading Labeling Through Integrated Regulation.” Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, vol. 7, no. 1, 2015, pp. 369–435., < http://lawecommons.luc.edu/luclj/vol47/iss1/8>