Practice Area

False Advertising

Patterson Belknap's preeminence in the field of advertising law has been built on more than four decades of groundbreaking wins for blue-chip clients. The Firm has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in many of the most notable competitor and consumer false advertising lawsuits throughout the nation. Our clients include multi-national Fortune 500 companies that operate across a broad range of industries, including food and beverages, cosmetics and personal care, pharmaceuticals and supplements, telecommunications, electrical equipment, online travel, computer software, and consumer goods.

Our practice is consistently ranked in the top band of firms nationwide by Chambers USA. The publication notes that Patterson Belknap “remains a go-to firm for high-stakes advertising litigation and is “[p]articularly noted for representing leading brands in false advertising disputes, with a strong capability in handling cases that go to trial.” The guide further offers a client's quote: “They work well together and deliver win after win. Their strengths are their knowledge of the law and our company. They are excellent, persuasive writers, good orators and very responsive. Another client describes Patterson Belknap as “a true go-to firm when it comes to advertising and product claims.” Practice chair Steven Zalesin, also recognized in Chambers' top band of nationwide litigators, is a “rock-solid and much sought-after” lawyer who is greatly admired by peers and clients alike for his “exceptional courtroom skills and vigilance in protecting the long-term interests of his clients.

Companies rely on Patterson Belknap for high-stakes false advertising litigation, as well as regulatory proceedings in federal, state and self-regulatory forums. We represent clients at the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau (NAD). We counsel clients regarding new product launches, package development, claims substantiation, advertising clearance, regulatory compliance, public relations matters, and industry initiatives related to advertising and marketing. And our team of professionals maintains Misbranded, the first and only blog devoted to the law of false advertising as it relates to FDA-regulated products.

Some of the Firm's recent notable cases include:

  • Representing a leading beverage company in putative class actions filed in California and New York alleging that the term “Diet” is false because no-calorie soft drinks purportedly do not assist with weight loss or weight management, and can lead to weight gain. A judge in the Southern District of New York dismissed the suit, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed that the labeling was not misleading. Similarly, a judge in the Northern District of California dismissed the suit, concluding that the plaintiff had not plausibly alleged that the term “Diet” implies a misleading message pertaining to weight management. The Firm continues to represent the same client in separate litigation in the District of Columbia, in which the plaintiffs allege that the company has concealed the purported dangers of its sugar-sweetened beverages.

  • Obtained a nationwide preliminary injunction for a leading animal health company, enjoining ads that falsely claimed that dairy products made with milk from cows treated with our client’s supplement were unsafe and less wholesome than other dairy products. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the injunction.

  • Secured a federal jury verdict for the world’s leading beverage company in a landmark advertising dispute over juice labeling. In the original California district court case, we obtained summary judgment dismissing the federal and state-law claims against our client, and obtained an affirmance of the summary judgment ruling on the federal claim in the Ninth Circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently vacated the Ninth Circuit’s decision, and remanded the federal claim for trial. The California federal jury rejected the claim in full, returning a verdict in our client’s favor after a six-day trial and less than a day of deliberation.

  • Defending a leading cosmetics company in consumer class actions in New York federal court challenging the labeling of various hair care products as false and misleading. 

  • Defending the nation’s largest electrical wiring company in a competitor lawsuit in California state court concerning advertising and labeling of electrical equipment. 

  • Defending a consumer products company in a putative consumer class action, filed in California federal court, alleging that the “hypoallergenic” labelling statement on our client’s products is false.

  • Representing a global leader in the beverage industry in a multi-district litigation in the Northern District of California, alleging that our client has made false and misleading claims for its flagship product. Plaintiffs allege that the promotional claims indicating that the product contains “no artificial flavors” and “no preservatives” are false.

  • Representing a leading vendor of business process management (BPM) computer software in a dispute with its competitor over the accuracy of one another’s product advertising, involving dueling claims under the Lanham Act and Massachusetts state law.

  • Represented a Fortune 500 chocolate manufacturer in a putative class action in federal court in California alleging that the statement “No Artificial Flavors” on the packaging for our client’s dark chocolate products is false and misleading. The court granted our motion for summary judgment dismissing the claims of the individual plaintiffs, and denied plaintiffs’ class certification motion as moot.

  • Represented a leading consumer products company in a Lanham Act suit against its primary competitor concerning a wide range of advertisements that contained false and misleading comparisons to our client’s household cleaning and disinfecting products.

  • Represented the fastest-growing pet food company in the United States in a closely watched court battle with a competitor over each company's advertising. The matter began as a Lanham Act false advertising action brought by the competitor, and was followed by numerous related consumer class actions—all of which have been resolved.

  • Defended a consumer products company in Massachusetts federal court in a Lanham Act action brought by a competitor regarding the labeling of wound-care products.

  • Won dismissal of two consumer class actions alleging that the labels for our client’s chocolate were deceptive because they did not disclose that some cocoa is indirectly sourced from regions in West Africa, where forced labor and/or child labor is known to occur. Each case was dismissed by the district court, and one dismissal has been affirmed by the court of appeals. The other is awaiting decision.

  • Represented a cable television company in an inquiry by the New York Attorney General’s office into whether major internet service providers deliver the broadband internet speeds that they advertise to consumers.

  • Represented a leading manufacturer of nutritional supplements in a challenge to labeling and advertising of a widely used vitamin supplement in the Eastern District of New York. Defeated class certification, successfully opposed interlocutory appeal, and obtained summary judgment for client on all claims.

  • Secured summary judgment on behalf of a leading candy manufacturer in a putative class action regarding product packaging in the Western District of Missouri. Plaintiffs alleged that the empty space—or “slack-fill”—in 4-ounce boxes of certain candies was excessive and misleading. The district court granted our motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case.

  • Represented a leading orange juice manufacturer in a multi-district litigation, consolidated in the Western District of Missouri, alleging that the labeling and advertising for its juice products falsely implied that the products are less processed than is actually the case. Defeated class certification, and claims were voluntarily dismissed.

  • Represented the manufacturer of the leading non-prescription pain reliever in a long-running Lanham Act false advertising dispute brought by its competitor concerning the marketing of a leading product for infants and children.