The plaintiff, a “beer aficionado and home brewer,” filed a class action lawsuit in 2015 alleging that advertising by MillerCoors for its Blue Moon beer was deceptive and misleading in violation of California consumer protection laws, including California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, and Unfair Competition Law. The plaintiff argued that MillerCoors misleadingly conveyed that its Blue Moon beer is a “craft beer” produced by a small, independent and traditional craft brewery, when in fact it is a mass produced beer. The plaintiff alleged that MillerCoors mislead consumers by using its trademark “Artfully Crafted” on the label and in advertising, by selling Blue Moon beer at a premium akin to crafted beers, and by directing retailers to stock Blue Moon beers in the craft beer section and to refer to Blue Moon as a craft beer. The court disagreed. The court concluded that the advertising was non-actionable puffery, because the advertising was vague and did not specifically state that the beer was a “craft beer.” The court also did not agree that premium pricing amounts to a representation about the product. Finally, the court held that MillerCoors is not liable for third party’s misrepresentations by retailers, since MillerCoors did not have “unbridled control” over the retailers. As such, the court dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint.
TIP: Advertisers should be careful to avoid communicating deceptive or misleading claims about a product, including with respect to the production process. However, this decision establishes that an advertiser has some leeway in how it advertises a product provided that no specific misrepresentations about the product or the production process are made.