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American Home Products Corp. v. Johnson & Johnson

577 F.2d 160 (1978)

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American Home Products Corp. v. Johnson & Johnson

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

577 F.2d 160 (1978)

Facts

American Home Products Corp. (American) (plaintiff) sold an aspirin-based analgesic called Anacin. Johnson & Johnson (Johnson) (defendant) sold Tylenol, an acetaminophen-based analgesic. American ran advertisements favorably comparing Anacin to Tylenol. After Johnson complained that the advertisements were false, American sought a declaratory judgment that the advertisements were not false as well as an injunction prohibiting Johnson from interfering with the advertisements. Johnson counterclaimed pursuant to § 43(a) of the Lanham Act, alleging that the advertisements were false. American responded that the advertisements were unambiguous and true and thus the district court should not resort to survey data to determine how consumers understood them. Rather, American argued, as a matter of law, the advertisements did not violate the act. After a trial, the district court determined that the advertisements were ambiguous and that survey data proved that consumers understood them to claim that Anacin (1) was a better pain reliever than Tylenol generally, (2) was the better pain reliever because it could reduce inflammation, and (3) reduced inflammation caused by certain specified conditions. However, the district court rejected Johnson’s allegation that consumers understood the advertisements to claim Anacin relieved pain faster than Tylenol or that Anacin did not harm the stomach. Based on its review of the medical evidence, the district court concluded that at least the advertisements’ first two claims were false. Because the three claims were inseparable, the district court enjoined American from running advertisements making these claims. American appealed, among other things, the district court’s ruling that the advertisements were false. Johnson appealed the district court’s finding that the advertisements did not claim that Anacin worked faster than Tylenol and that it did not harm the stomach.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Oakes, J.)

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