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A California federal jury ruled on Monday that Coke does not owe POM $77.5 million for misleading advertising of its Minute Maid Pomegranate Blueberry 100% Fruit Juice Blend.
More than seven years after the lawsuit was first filed, a Los Angeles jury ruled today that Coca-Cola does not owe POM Wonderful $77.5 million for misleading advertising of its Minute Maid Pomegranate Blueberry 100% Fruit Juice Blend.
POM Wonderful first sued Coca-Cola in 2008 under the Lanham Act, a federal statute that gives companies grounds to sue competitors over false advertising that creates unfair competition. POM claimed that Coke’s product (discontinued in May 2014) misrepresented the amount of actual pomegranate and blueberry juice present in the product, when instead most of the product’s blend was made from apple and grape juice. An expert for POM has since claimed the company suffered lost-profit damages of up to $77.5 million as a result of Coke’s misleading labeling of its product.
In its defense, Coke insisted its label was in compliance with FDA’s Food Drug and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act because the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act allows these kinds of juice blends to be named after the juices providing the product’s characteristic flavor. The act does not require a company name all of the juices in its beverages or list the proportions, Coke also pointed out.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the California federal judge sided with Coke, but the case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2014 that POM can sue Coke even if the product was compliant with FDA regulations. In other words, compliance with FDA’s FD&C Act does not provide safe harbor against Lanham Act lawsuits, according to the ruling.
But following that long and potentially precedent-setting saga, as well as a six-day trial in Los Angeles, today the jury sided with Coke after less than a day of deliberation.
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