We posted on the topic of unfair competition with some frequency of late. In a timely opinion, the Supreme Court just added to that area of law.
The case in question was brought against Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid division. It has been selling a juice blend with a label prominently displaying the words “Pomegranate Blueberry,” even though those two juices make up a whole 0.5% of the blend – combined. POM, a competitor, sued on the theory that the labeling was deceptive, taking away sales from POM by falsely claiming that Minute Maid’s product was a Pomegranate-Blueberry juice.
The Supreme Court allowed the lawsuit to proceed over various technical arguments centered over the proposition that because the labeling of food and drinks is regulated by the government, competitors would somehow lose the right to vindicate unfair competition claims involving those labels.
POM will now have its day in court. With it, comes a reminder that deceptive practices by competitors big (Coca-Cola) or small (your neighborhood mom and pop store) may violate laws protecting fair competition in a free enterprise market. There is a line between a sharp commercial tactic and an illegal gambit – a line that a skilled attorney will know to recognize.