In arguments this morning before the Supreme Court, Coca-Cola said that the label for its Minute Maid “Pomegranate Blueberry” juice (with “flavored blend of 5 juices” in smaller type below) complied with rules laid down by the FDA. Thus, Coca-Cola argued, the company could not be sued by POM for being “misleading” under the Lanham Act, which is designed to protect trademarks.
Chief Justice John Roberts appeared to disagree: “I don’t know why it’s impossible to have a label that fully complies with the FDA regulations and also happens to be misleading on the entirely different question of commercial competition, consumer confusion that has nothing to do with health.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy also disagreed with Coca-Cola’s assertion that consumers were sophisticated enough to know that other juices would be in the bottle because the food label contained the word “flavored” (a term of significance under FDA regulations): “Don’t make me feel bad because I thought that was pomegranate juice.”
Kennedy said pointedly at another instance: “I think it’s relevant for us to ask whether people are cheated in buying this product.”
And when Coca-Cola’s attorney disputed that the label was misleading, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asserted, “Suppose that the reality is that consumers are misled.”
Please also see the Washington Post’s excellent article on the oral argument.