New opinion: false-advertising injunction upheld

Today’s only published opinion is an affirmance in a Lanham Act false-advertising appeal.

CA3 today upheld a preliminary injunction barring a steam-iron seller from making false claims about its product. The product packaging claimed that the iron had “more powerful steam” than a competitor’s, and in fine print on the package it defined just what it meant by that phrase. But when it was sued, the company argued that, even if its iron wasn’t more powerful per its own fine-print definition, its “more powerful steam” claim still could be true because some consumers understood the phrase differently than the small-print definition on the package. The district court refused to consider this consumer-survey evidence, and the panel affirmed:

[W]e principally consider how courts should interpret an advertising claim when the packaging or label unambiguously defines a claim term. The District Court decided that the packaging’s definition of a claim term applies to the claim’s explicit message. Based on this decision, the District Court disregarded consumer survey evidence offering alternative meanings for the claim term. We agree with the District Court and find its approach firmly based in false advertising law and logic.

The case is Groupe SEB USA v. Euro-Pro Operating. Opinion by Fisher, joined by Jordan and Hardiman. Arguing counsel were Roger Colaizzi of Venable for the seller and Gretchen Jankowski of Buchanan Ingersoll for the plaintiff.