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POM Wonderful Continues Label Litigation Win Streak

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By William Peacock, Esq. on January 05, 2015 10:41 AM

It's much ado about pomegranate juice labels. Last year, a little pomegranate juice maker, POM Wonderful, made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The issue? Labeling, and whether they could sue a competitor over that company's deceptive labels.

Last week, they did it again: POM won another labeling case, this time taking down a trademark infringer at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The SCOTUS Case: POM Can Sue for Unfair Competition

When is a label deceptive and not deceptive at the same time?

As we blogged about last year in our recap of the case: Coca-Cola makes a juice blend that prominently mentions "pomegranate blueberry" on the label. It has 0.2 percent blueberry and 0.3 percent pomegranate juice. The label complies with the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act ("FDCA").

POM, obviously, also sells pomegranate juice. It costs five times as much because it actually has pomegranate juice in it. POM wanted to sue Coca-Cola under the Lanham Act for unfair competition arising from the false and/or misleading label.

The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit and held that POM could do just that, as the FDCA and Lanham Act were "complementary" and catered to different interests: The FDCA protects the public while the Lanham Act protects commercial interests.

The 9th Circuit Case: POM Pummels Pur Pom Pomegranate Juice

In the Ninth Circuit case, once again POM was irked by a competitor's label. This time, however, the issue was trademark and consumer confusion.

POM Wonderful makes POM juice, with the "O" stylized as a heart. Pur makes Pom juice, with fewer capital letters and a squiggle above the lowercase "o." (Here is a comparison image.)

The Ninth Circuit, reversing a district court's ruling in Pur's favor, held that the two marks were similar enough to confuse consumers and that POM had a strong trademark in "POM," which "is not ascribed independent pomegranate-related meaning by conventional dictionaries." In fact, the term had never been used to market a pomegranate drink prior to POM Wonderful's arrival on the scene.

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