You want to start taking supplements, so you turn to a guide containing consumer reviews. Is the guide just a collection of advertisements? Last month, the Southern District of California again confronted this question, and also took into consideration whether the reviews should be afforded First Amendment protection. The court reiterated its prior finding that the Lanham Act does not apply to a nutritional supplement guide that faced a false advertising challenge.

In the fifth edition of the NutriSearch Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements (the “Guide”), NutriSearch recognized four companies—but not Ariix—with the Gold Medal of Achievement, even though NutriSearch allegedly acknowledged Ariix met the standards for the distinction. For its part, NutriSearch explained that it was reworking its awards recognition program for the sixth edition of the Guide, and that the fifth edition Gold Medal winners were merely prior winners who were grandfathered in. Ariix filed suit against NutriSearch and the Guide’s author, Lyle MacWilliam, claiming that the failure to award the Gold Medal amounted to a false representation that Ariix or its products are not as good as its main competitor, Usana, or Usana’s products. Ariix also alleged that the Guide claims to be objective and neutral, but is actually a shill for Usana, because of a previously undisclosed business relationship between MacWilliam and Usana.


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Bimbo Bakeries and U.S. Bakery recently found out that consumer confusion, like politics, is local, and that “local” means what the local consumer says it means. Let’s unbraid this loaf.

In Bimbo Bakeries USA, Inc. v. Sycamore, No. 2:13-CV-00749, 2019 WL 1058234 (D. Utah Mar. 5, 2019), the jury originally awarded Bimbo $8,027,720 in damages on its false advertising claim against U.S. Bakery, which tried multiple times to convince the court that what makes bread “local” is really a matter of the seller’s opinion, or at least that claiming bread is “local” is mere puffery. According to U.S. Bakery, “local” is a geographical term, but not a geographically descriptive term entitled to Lanham Act protection, because “local” is not a specified location.


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diamond ringsTiffany & Co., a world-renowned jeweler and specialty retailer, successfully won a judgment that Costco was appropriating its Tiffany® trademark. Federal Judge Laura T. Swain ordered Costco to pay Tiffany & Co. $19.4 million for trademark infringement and trademark counterfeiting under the Lanham Act, as well as unfair competition under New York state law, in the latest round in a long-running legal battle over the sale of engagement rings bearing the mark “Tiffany” as a standalone term. The decision reaffirms the strength of the Tiffany® trademark and will likely have a drastic effect on the way Costco and other wholesalers conduct business.

The world-famous Tiffany® mark has been used in commerce in the United States since 1868. In 1886, Tiffany & Co. introduced an engagement ring that highlights the diamonds by lifting the stone off the band. This famous ring was named the Tiffany®. This six-prong configuration has been called the “Tiffany setting” by other jewelers.


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DNA StrandEighty-eight percent of consumers are willing to pay more for healthier foods. Manufacturers have responded by focusing marketing campaigns on the health and safety benefits of their products, often at the expense of their competitors. But when Arla Foods portrayed a seven-year old girl defining a common hormone used to increase milk production in cows as “weird stuff” akin to a “six-eyed monster” with “razor sharp teeth” and electric fur, a Wisconsin federal judge decided the ad went too far and would likely mislead consumers. Despite Arla’s reliance on a small disclaimer and “scientific debate” over the health and safety of dairy products made from cows treated with rbST, the Court enjoined Arla’s campaign, finding it was likely to mislead consumers into thinking rbST was unsafe, unhealthy, weird, and “altogether something you should not feel good about feeding your family.”

On April 25, 2017 Arla launched a $30 million advertising campaign targeting “ingredient savvy” U.S. consumers seeking more information about the products they are eating and feeing their families. The centerpiece of the campaign is a 30-second commercial titled, “Arla Cheese Asked Kids: What is rbST?”


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Demand for Olympic merchandise in the United States is resurrected every 4 years by the fervor of the televised Games. Officially, authorized and licensed gear is readily available in stores and on the Internet; however, every iteration of the Games brings with it a flood of counterfeit Olympic goods as well. The broadcasting of this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro has, as expected, beckoned all sorts of counterfeit Olympic items to the U.S. market. From t-shirts illegally emblazoned with “Team USA”, to phony gold medals inscribed with the Olympic Rings. This blog post explores the laws that protect consumers and Olympics rights-holders in the United States from counterfeit Olympic goods.

Under 15 U.S.C. § 1127, a counterfeit is an article that includes unauthorized use of a logo, name, or other trademark that is “identical with, or substantially indistinguishable from” a registered trademark. The widely recognizable signs, symbols, and words affiliated with the Olympics, Paralympics, and Pan-American games are all registered trademarks. This includes, but is not limited to, the torch, the five interlocking rings, and the words “Team USA.”


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By Tungilik (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

In contrast to a general emphasis on new data and new claims at the 2015 NAD conference, NAD staff attorneys, advertising lawyers, and survey experts took the time to weigh in about the emphasis NAD will continue to place on traditional best practices of consumer surveys for claim substantiation or challenge.  Although online surveys programs allow survey experts to access pools of millions of respondents almost instantly, they also raise new issues regarding context and monitoring of responses.  The panel made it clear that the ease and advantages of online surveys do not excuse survey experts from keeping in mind the same concerns that have undergirded survey evidence for the past fifty years.

In a presentation titled “Tiny Screens, Big Distractions: How Reliable is Your Online Consumer Perception Survey?”, David Bernstein of Debevoise & Plimpton, Kevin Goldberg of Nestlé Nutrition, Hal Poret of ORC International, and Annie Ugurlayan of NAD traced the history of survey evidence before the courts.  In the 1960s, surveys were treated with extreme skepticism by judges, with the number used in Lanham Act litigation before 1975 stuck in the single digits.  With the additional consideration given to expert testimony by the revised Federal Rules of Evidence in the 1970s, Bernstein explained, judges became more comfortable with surveys, eventually elevating them to the position of influence they hold today. 
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Picture by Fruitnet.com  (CC BY 2.0)
Picture by Fruitnet.com (CC BY 2.0)

In 2014, the Supreme Court decided POM Wonderful LLC v. The Coca-Cola Company, 134 S.Ct. 2228, which we have discussed in detail here, and here, and here.  In POM Wonderful the Supreme Court held that “Congress did not intend the [Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act] FDCA to preclude Lanham Act suits like POM’s.”  Since that decision, enterprising plaintiffs have tried to interpret the decision broadly to argue that post-POM Wonderful district courts could not dismiss Lanham Act claims that allege a violation of the FDCA.

The Ninth Circuit’s recent opinion in Astiana v. Hain Celestial Group, Inc., __ F.3d __ (9th Cir. 2015) confirms that district courts can and should defer to the expertise of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the primary jurisdiction doctrine.

Before POM Wonderful, it was clear that “a private action brought under the Lanham Act may not be pursued when . . . the claim would require litigation of the alleged underlying FDCA violation in a circumstance where the FDA has not itself concluded that there was such a violation.”  PhotoMedex, Inc. v. Irwin, 601 F.3d 919 (9th Cir. 2010).


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It is pretty rare for the Lanham Act and state law deceptive advertising cases to involve political candidates, but a case in Virginia shows how advertising law can be used to help candidates who have been harmed by entities trying to raise money using their name and likeness. We have more information on the political implications of this settlement on the Political Law Briefing Blog.

How it all Started

In 2013, Ken Cuccinelli was running for governor of Virginia, and a political action committee (“PAC”) decided it would raise money, ostensibly to help him win. What Mr. Cuccinelli discovered, however, was that he only received a small amount of the money raised, and the PAC did not execute its promises of a get-out-the-vote campaign for him. Nearly a year after the election, he sued the PAC and the principals involved for false advertising. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The court held a settlement conference, and the defendants ended up paying Mr. Cuccinelli $85,000, provided him their mailing lists of donors so he can use or rent those lists, and agreed to honor requests from candidates to stop using their name an image. 
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Flanax Belmora LLC
Flanax Belmora LLC

There are two Flanax’s.  Belmora LLC (“Belmora”) distributes Flanax, a brand of pain relief medicine, in the United States while Bayer has distributed a brand of pain medicine, Flanax, in Mexico for decades.  Bayer sought to cancel Belmora’s registered trademark for Flanax in the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”).  Bayer won in that venue.

Then, the parties sought review of that decision and brought additional causes of action in the Eastern District of Virginia.  Belmora filed a motion to dismiss Bayer’s counterclaims, which the District Court had granted, and a motion to reverse the TTAB opinion.

In its counterclaim, Bayer alleged that Belmora’s early packaging was “virtually identical” to Bayer’s, and that Belmora’s marketing messages often suggested a historical connection between Belmora’s Flanax and Latino customers.  For instance, Bayer alleged that Belmora tried to link itself with Bayer’s Flanax by saying that Belmora’s was a brand that Latinos had turned to “for generations.” 
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