Monday, March 20, 2017

Bud Light Lime-a-Rita not deceptive despite not being so light after all

Cruz v. Anheuser-Busch Cos., LLC, No. 15-56021, --- Fed.Appx. ----, 2017 WL 1019084 (9th Cir. Mar. 16, 2017)

Cruz sued Anheuser-Busch for the usual California claims, alleging that the labels on cartons containing cans of “Rita” malt beverages, including Lime-a-Rita, are misleading by using the word “Light,” because the products contain considerably more calories and carbohydrates per ounce than other Budweiser products.  The majority found that no reasonable consumer would be deceived into thinking that “Bud Light Lime Lime-a-Rita,” which the label calls a “Margarita With a Twist,” is a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate beverage or that it contains fewer calories or carbohydrates than a regular beer. It is was clear from the label that the beverage wasn’t a normal beer: the label calls it a “Margarita With a Twist,” and pictures a bright green drink, served over ice, in a margarita glass.

The majority concluded that a reasonable consumer might compare “Bud Light Lime Lime-a-Rita” either to (a) a hypothetical product “Budweiser Lime-a-Rita,” made with Budweiser instead of with Bud Light, or (b) a tequila margarita. The hypothetical Bud product would contain more calories and carbohydrates than the Bud Light Lime-a-Rita, while a tequila margarita typically contains at least as many calories and carbohydrates as a “Bud Light Lime Lime-a-Rita.”  

Judge Christen dissented, reasoning that a reasonable consumer would naturally compare Bud Light Lime Lime-a-Rita with Bud Light Lime. But Bud Light Lime has far fewer calories and carbohydrates. Judge Christen didn’t think a reasonable consumer would hypothesize a nonexistent beverage or compare a malt beverage to tequila.  Thus, she would have found that reasonable consumers could be misled by the “light” label.

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