Wagner v. Circle W Mastiffs, No. 2:08–CV–00431, 2014 WL 1308713 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 31, 2014)
I’m skipping the many and complex defamation claims. The Lanham Act bit: the Lanham Act plaintiffs alleged that the defendant Williamsons “falsely advertised that their maskless dogs are American Mastiffs, in derogation of the breed standard.” In the absence of evidence of consumer deception, the question was literal falsity, and plaintiffs argued that dark masks are required according to the breed standard. The court found no literal falsity.
A breed standard, the court found, “defines the aspirational characteristics of a particular breed of dog.” A maskless dog might not be registrable as an American Mastiff because the absence of a mask is “relatively significant,” but an owner of that dog can still (truthfully) represent that dog as being the offspring of purebred American Mastiff dogs. “Whether a dog may be considered an American Mastiff if it sufficiently aligns with the breeding standard, or whether it may be considered an American Mastiff simply because it is the offspring of two registered American Mastiffs, seems to the Court to be a matter of semantics and philosophy.” Thus, advertising the offspring as an American Mastiff was not literally false, especially since it was undisputed that the Williamsons didn’t hide the masklessness of some of their dogs.