A federal court recently ruled that sunscreen manufacturers were enjoined from making claims regarding their competitors' products. Schering-Plough HealthCare Products, Inc., manufacturer of Coppertone, filed a lawsuit in 2009 alleging that Neutrogena made false and misleading statements regarding Coppertone sunscreen. Specifically, Neutrogena used a side-by-side comparison chart to depict that its sunscreen provided "superior UVA/UVB protection."The court determined that the Neutrogena ad was literally false because the side-by-side comparison chart did not accurately reflect the true benefits of the sunscreen protection. Additionally, the court found that Neutrogena's claim "best average UVA/UVB protection vs. leading sport lines" was deceptive, because it implied that all of Neutrogena's products were superior to Coppertone's, when in fact the claim related only to the products depicted.

The court also found that Coppertone's claim that "Coppertone Sport spray and Neutrogena spray provide the same amount of sun protection…Coppertone Sport gives you better coverage" was false and deceptive, because Coppertone's actual test data was not on Neutrogena's products but rather on products with similar ingredients.

TIP: When substantiating a superiority claim of one product vs. another, companies should test the actual products, rather than extrapolating a claim from third-party data. Additionally, when making a superiority claim, companies should narrow the claim to the products being tested to avoid a claim over the entire "line" of the products.