On Monday, April 21st, the Supreme Court will hear argument in POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola, which I recently wrote about here. The question before the high court is whether a company may bring deceptive advertising claims under Federal Law with respect to a statement specifically allowed under FDA regulations. In this case, POM alleged that Coke’s marketing of its Minute Maid “Pomegranate Blueberry” juice violated the Lanham Act because consumers are misled to believe that the drink consists primarily of pomegranate and blueberry juices. The lower courts resolved case in Coke’s favor on preemption grounds because the product’s label was in full compliance with FDA guidelines.
If the Supreme Court sides with POM, it will significantly alter the existing legal landscape. Presently, the Lanham Act yields to FDA regulations on preemption grounds when the two are in conflict. In other words, potentially deceptive labels are allowed if the relevant statements have been specifically approved by the FDA. A ruling in POM’s favor would effectively nullify this safe harbor with the result that anything on a label could be a potential target in litigation.