December 17, 2014 Articles

Limiting Lanham Act Claims after POM Wonderful

A "bridge too far" or a path to preclusion?

By Peter Meier and Elizabeth Dorsi

In its recent decision in POM Wonderful LLC v. Coca-Cola Co., 134 S. Ct. 2228 (2014), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) does not preclude a private party from bringing a Lanham Act claim challenging as misleading a food label that is regulated by the FDCA. The Supreme Court rejected Coca-Cola’s argument that POM Wonderful LLC was precluded from suing it for Lanham Act violations because regulations under the FDCA allegedly permitted Coca-Cola to use the label. Id. at 2239–40. The Supreme Court also rejected arguments advanced by the U.S. government, as amicus curiae, that a Lanham Act claim is precluded to the extent the FDCA or Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations “specifically require or authorized the challenged aspects of [the] label,” holding that even if agency regulations may bar certain legal remedies, “it is a bridge too far to accept an agency’s after-the-fact statement to justify that result here.” Id. at 2240–41.

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