Thursday, June 19’s session in the U.S. Supreme Court saw the justices vote unanimously in support of Pom Wonderful’s lawsuit against Coca-Cola Co., an NPR article reported.
The Supreme Court’s vote will give Pom Wonderful another chance to prove in court that Coca-Cola is guilty of falsely advertising and labeling a juice product to consumers and stealing business from Pom as a result.
Pom Wonderful took fault with Minute Maid’s pomegranate-blueberry juice product, labeled as a “Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of Five Juices,” claiming the label is misleading. While NPR reports that the juice Pom Wonderful, a pomegranate grower, makes is 85% pomegranate juice and 15% blueberry juice, Coca-Cola’s product is 0.5% pomegranate and blueberry juice — combined.
Pom originally filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola in 2008, citing the Lanham Act, which makes illegal any false or misleading statements about a product that can be cited only by companies, not consumers, according to a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article.
However, lower courts eventually ruled that Pom couldn’t successfully sue because of FDA regulations that allow Coca-Cola’s way of labeling its drink. The Supreme Court’s decision will allow Pom to continue its lawsuit.
The Supreme Court’s decision came from the belief that Coca-Cola was marketing its juice to appear to consumers as though it was the same product as Pom Wonderful’s.
“Competitors who manufacture or distribute products have detailed knowledge regarding how consumers rely upon certain sales and marketing strategies,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in a statement. “Their awareness of unfair competition practices may be far more immediate and accurate than that of agency rulemakers and regulators. Lanham Act suits draw upon this market expertise by empowering private parties to sue competitors to protect their interests on a case-by-case basis.”