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Foie Gras Producer Must Defend Marketing Claims

Friday, June 28, 2013
A producer of foie gras and four of its executives must defend claims by the Animal League Defense Fund and Regal Vegan, Inc., a producer of plant-based pate, that they violated the Lanham Act and California's unfair competition and false advertising laws by marketing their foie gras as “the humane choice,” according to a June 25 decision by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (Animal Legal Defense Fund v. HVFG LLC, N.D. Cal., No. 3:12-cv-05809-WHA, 6/25/13).

The Animal League Defense Fund and Regal Vegan contended that, because foie gras production “is in fact inevitably inhumane,” marketing any foie gras as a humane choice, as HVFG LLC has been doing, is necessarily untrue. HVFG moved for judgment on the pleadings on two grounds: (1) ALDF lacks standing to bring suit under either California statute; and (2) the plaintiffs' claims of conspiracy, respondeat superior, and aiding and abetting are not cognizable claims upon which relief can be granted.

The court rejected the first ground, explaining that “an advocacy organization has standing under [§]17200 when it diverts resources in response to challenged unlawful activity,” as ALDF has done here. As it “see[s] no reasoned basis for treating” proscribed business practices and false advertising differently, it denied the motion as to both claims. It agreed with the second ground, however, noting that respondeat superior is not an independent cause of action but rather a theory of liability. As the plaintiffs withdrew their conspiracy and aiding and abetting claims, the court denied the motion in part and granted it in part.


Text of the court's decision is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Animal_Legal_Defense_Fund_et_al_v_HVFG_LLC_et_al_Docket_No_312cv0.

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