Misbranded Blog

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Misbranded is Patterson Belknap’s blog covering false advertising litigation—both consumer class actions and competitor suits—with a particular focus on FDA-regulated products (foods/beverages, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and dietary supplements).  Writing from the industry perspective, we provide timely updates on important cases, surveys of litigation trends, and in-depth analyses of “hot” legal issues.  Our firm pioneered the modern practice of false advertising law more than 40 years ago, bringing the first competitor suits under the Lanham Act.  In the decades since, we have continued to practice at the cutting edge, handling many of the field’s most groundbreaking cases on behalf of the nation’s best-known businesses.  Today, led by Steven A. Zalesin, our team advocates creatively, strategically, and efficiently on behalf of our clients at all phases of litigation, from pre-complaint demands to Supreme Court appeals.

Federal Court Wipes Away Challenge to Nivea Lotion on Preemption Grounds

What distinguishes a “cosmetic” from a “drug” under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA)?  The FDA has struggled to offer clear guidance on the distinction, but the classification as one or the other (or both) carries significant legal and regulatory consequences for manufacturers: a product that is a “drug” needs pre-market approval from the FDA, while a cosmetic does not.  A cosmetic product that has not received this approval may not represent that, like a drug, it is “intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man.” 21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(1).  Thus, a product that claims to be capable of changing how part of the body works (e.g., “reduces cellulite” or “regenerates cells”), but has not been subjected to this pre-approval process, is considered mislabeled under the FDCA.

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Latest Scoop on the “Happy Cows” Lawsuit: Court Dismisses False Advertising Claims Against Ben & Jerry’s

Patrons of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream should be familiar with Woody, the bovine mascot touted by the company as “the most interesting cow in the world.”    Ben & Jerry’s packaging has long featured cartoon illustrations of Woody grazing beneath blue skies in bucolic green pastures.  This past year, however, Woody ambled into the sights of the plaintiffs’ class action bar.  Thankfully, she (and Ben & Jerry’s) emerged unscathed:  the district court (D. Vt.) dismissed the case at the pleadings stage, affirming both the authority of district courts to dismiss implausible consumer protection claims and the requirement that plaintiffs seeking injunctive relief demonstrate a probability of future injury.

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Paradise Lost: Court Dismisses Class Action Alleging Gin “Adulteration”

Grains of paradise (aframomum melegueta), are a peppery, citrusy spice indigenous to West Africa, related to ginger and cardamom.  The name purportedly derives from medieval merchants’ claims that the plant grew only in the Garden of Eden.  Common to West African cuisine, grains of paradise are also one of the botanicals sometimes used to give gin its characteristic flavor.

In Florida, however, an obscure 1868 law makes it a third-degree felony to “adulterate[] … any liquor” with certain specified substances, ranging from grains of paradise and capsicum (chili pepper) to potentially deadly opium and “sugar of lead.”  Fla. Stat. § 562.455.  Some have postulated that this law’s original intent was to prevent consumer deception, as the banned ingredients were once added to liquor to make it taste stronger (more alcoholic) than it actually was.  That same practice spurred an 1816 law of Parliament (56 Geo. III, ch. 58) making it illegal for brewers and dealers in beer to possess grains of paradise.  Unlike merrie olde England, however, the Sunshine State never got around to repealing its law.

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