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Southern District of New York Throws Out Case Against Snapple for Lack of Evidence

By William MacDonald*

The Southern District of New York recently granted summary judgment in favor of Snapple Beverage Corp in a case that challenged Snapple's use of the phrase "all natural."

The Southern District of New York recently granted summary judgment in favor of Snapple Beverage Corp in a case that challenged Snapple's use of the phrase "all natural" on the labeling for its beverages. Decision Here (http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2007cv08742/365140/110/)

Plaintiffs claimed that the use of the phrase "all natural" on Snapple's beverages was deceptive because the beverages contained high fructose corn syrup, which is a processed sweetener. Plaintiffs alleged that they paid a premium for Snapple beverages as a result of the "all natural" labeling and suffered damage by paying a price higher than that charged for comparable products of the same size and type not marketed as "all natural." Snapple moved for summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiff failed to offer any evidence showing that they were injured as a result of the labeling.

The Court sided with Snapple on the motion, finding that plaintiffs offered insufficient proof to support a finding that they paid a premium for Snapple drinks or that they relied on the "all natural" label in purchasing Snapple's beverages. The Court rested its decision on the fact that plaintiffs had no actual record of their purchases, and during depositions, plaintiffs had only vague recollections of their purchases, and were unable to establish the exact price they paid, or the dates of their purchases. Plaintiffs also offered no evidence from which to calculate the premium they paid over comparable beverages.

In response to this case, Snapple began replacing high fructose corn syrup with sugar in all of its beverages labeled as all-natural, and represented to the Court that it no longer markets any products containing high fructose corn syrup as all-natural.

Takeaway: Although plaintiffs were not able to meet their burden of proof here, marketers must still be careful to make sure their advertising claims are not open to similar misinterpretations.

*Mr. MacDonald was formerly a lawyer with Olshan's IP Department.

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