Coca-Cola's Minute Maid label sells a product it calls "Pomegranate Blueberry" juice that contains 0.3% pomegranate juice and 0.2% blueberry juice. Today the Supreme Court ruled that yup, yessiree, a competitor like POM Wonderful can sue for deceptive labeling of said product.
The case turned on lawyerly arguments about preemption and statutory interpretation. POM, you see, had sued Coca-Cola under the Lanham Act. That's the federal trademark law which allows competitors to sue each other for "unfair competition" due to false or misleading labeling. Coca-Cola tried to dodge the claim by arguing that it had met the juice labeling standards set by the FDA under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. It tried to claim those standards pre-empted unfair competition claims.
Justice Kennedy, writing for a unanimous pomegranate-and-blueberry-loving Court, knocked out both those arguments. First he pointed out that the word "pre-emption" is out of place here, since that idea really only applies when a federal law displaces a state one on the same issue. Then he noted that the country could very well use both FDA-enforced labeling standards and litigation by righteous-pomegranate-warrior competitors like POM to keep the beverage lords honest.
While nature of the dispute relieved Kennedy from actually having to state the level of his obvious outrage against those apple-and-grape-purveying malefactors Coca-Cola, he came awful close:
The position Coca-Cola takes in this Court that because food and beverage labeling is involved it has no Lanham Act liability here for practices that allegedly mislead and trick consumers, all to the injury of competitors, finds no support in precedent or the statutes.
Antioxidant lovers across the nation may now join together in song.
[Image via Shutterstock.]