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Court rules against Coke

New Jersey residents and others across the country might be paying more for their Coca-Cola products if the soda manufacturer continues to lose in court. The most recent business dispute arose after a juice maker claimed that Coke’s pomegranate juice is not all natural as part of a false advertising dispute.

The case has made its way through the legal channels due to its “Pomegranate Blueberry” product. The lawsuit started in 2008 when the competitor filed its claim after losing the market share to the Coke’s line of juice products. Despite the name, the product is 99 percent composed of apple juice and grape juice. Additionally, the words “pomegranate” and “blueberry” are more prominent on the label of the drinks than other ingredients. Lower courts had ruled that Coke had technically complied with Food and Drug Administration rules and other relevant laws. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in the soda manufacturer’s favor, saying that a finding of compliance with FDA labeling rules would preclude private companies from filing suit under trademark law.

However, the Supreme Court disagreed, finding that Coke may mislead consumers even if it is in compliance with FDA rules. Justice Kennedy, who wrote the author’s opinion, said that the drink only contains 0.3 percent pomegranate juice and 0.2 blueberry juice. He also noted that the competitor had a right to sue for unfair competition on the basis of false advertising. The juice manufacturer is embroiled in a separate lawsuit against it that is claiming that it used deceptive advertising of its own with claims that pomegranate juice can be used to treat prostate cancer and heart disease.

Representatives of companies that are facing potential litigation may discuss their case with a business lawyer. Taking this course of action may help prevent litigation from arising or provide legal help if a case proceeds to court.

Source: The Olympian, “Court rules for Pom Wonderful in dispute with Coke”, Sam Hananel, June 12, 2014

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