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Federal Trade Commission v. Mary Carter Paint Co.

United States Supreme Court
382 U.S. 46 (1965)


Mary Carter Paint Company (Mary Carter) (defendant) sold buckets of paint. Mary Carter’s advertising used slogans like “buy one get one free” and “every second can free.” Mary Carter charged a price significantly higher than the customary retail price for a can of paint. Mary Carter never sold single cans of paint at any price. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) (plaintiff) filed a complaint, arguing that Mary Carter was not offering customers anything for free. Rather, Mary Carter was increasing the price of one can of paint to cover the cost of two cans of paint, including the purportedly “free” can of paint. Therefore, the FTC argued, Mary Carter deceptively used the word “free,” in violation of § 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act). The FTC entered a cease and desist order against Mary Carter, and the court of appeals set the order aside. The FTC petitioned for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Brennan, C.J.)

Dissent (Harlan, J.)

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