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"To prevail on a deceptive-advertising claim under the Lanham Act, a plaintiff must establish that (1) the defendant made a material false statement of fact in a commercial advertisement; (2) the false statement actually deceived or had the tendency to deceive a substantial segment of its audience; and (3) the plaintiff has been or is likely to be injured as a result of the false statement." Eli Lilly & Co. v. Arla Foods, Inc., 893 F.3d 375, 381-82 (7th Cir. 2018) (citing Hot Wax, Inc. v. Turtle Wax, Inc., 191 F.3d 813, 819 (7th Cir. 1999)).
During Super Bowl LIII, defendant Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC, launched an advertising campaign highlighting plaintiff MillerCoors, LLC's use of corn syrup in brewing Miller Lite and Coors Light, as compared to Anheuser-Busch's use of rice in its flagship light beer, Bud Light. This lawsuit followed, with MillerCoors asserting a claim of false advertising under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(B). Before the court is MillerCoors’s motion for preliminary injunction. MillerCoors argued that "when viewed as a whole, the advertisements deceived consumers into believing that Miller Lite and Coors Light final products actually contain corn syrup and thus are unhealthy and inferior to Bud Light." MillerCoors also contended that Anheuser-Busch's statements that Bud Light contains "100% less corn syrup" than Miller Lite and/or Coors Light and that Bud Light contains "no corn syrup" are misleading because they "highlight this false dichotomy in a way that suggests consumers should care about it for important reasons such as health concerns."
Should MillerCoors’s motion for preliminary injunction be granted?
The court granted MillerCoors’s motion for preliminary injunction enjoining Anheuser-Busch's use of the following statements: (1) Bud Light contains "100% less corn syrup"; (2) Bud Light in direct reference to "no corn syrup" without any reference to "brewed with," "made with" or "uses"; (3) Miller Lite and/or Coors Light and "corn syrup" without including any reference to "brewed with," "made with" or "uses"; and (4) describing "corn syrup" as an ingredient "in" the finished product. The court concluded that MillerCoors has not demonstrated a likelihood of success in demonstrating that the advertisements solely using the language "brewed with," "made with," or "uses" corn syrup are misleading. The court agrees with MillerCoors that it has a likelihood of success in demonstrating that Anheuser-Busch's statements that Bud Light contains "100% less corn syrup" than Miller Lite and/or Coors Light and that Bud Light contains "no corn syrup" are misleading.