A federal court in California has denied the motion to dismiss defendants’ counterclaims filed by plaintiff sugar producers in a dispute between them and companies that make high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and promoted it in a national campaign claiming that "HFCS is corn sugar," "HFCS is natural," and "sugar is sugar." W. Sugar Coop. v. Archer-Daniels Midland Co., No. 11-3473 (U.S. Dist. Ct., C.D. Cal., order entered September 16, 2013).
The court ruled that (i) because the counterclaims do not allege fraud, they satisfy the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8; (ii) whether the plaintiffs’ statements, at issue in the counterclaims, are immune from liability under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine requires further factual development and is thus premature; (iii) the counterclaims’ allegations do not demonstrate that the plaintiffs are immune from liability under the Communications Decency Act of 1996 in that they "neither demonstrate that Plaintiffs ‘passively displayed’ the statements [authored by others] nor that the original authors of the statements played an ‘active role’ in providing the statements to the Plaintiffs"; (iv) the counterclaims state a claim under the Lanham Act; and (v) the challenged counterclaims’ allegations need not be stricken because they are not immaterial, impertinent or clearly insufficient.