After years of bitter legal wrangling over the “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza” slogan adorning the marketing paraphernalia at Papa John’s International restaurants, John’s archrival Pizza Hut, a subsidiary of Tricon Global Restaurants, is demanding that the Supreme Court clear up advertising law confusion.
Tricon has petitioned for a wit of certiorari, requesting a judicial review of the legality of John’s advertising campaign, which it argues is misleading, and therefore illegal.
In September, the Fifth US Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that while John’s “better” claim was misleading on television, it was still fine for use in marketing campaigns. The predominant reason for this was that Pizza Hut had failed to prove that the better claims “were material to consumers.”
Materiality is an important point because if proved it can render an advert in violation of the Lanham Act, a law that makes misrepresentation in advertising a civil offence.
In this appeal to the high court then, Pizza Hut will be contending the view of the New Orleans court with regard to what constitutes materiality in misleading advertising. Pizza Hut attorney Robert W Millen argues: “The court created a new definition of what is necessary to prove materiality.”
On the other hand, a spokesman for Papa John’s, Chris Sternberg commented: “We think it’s ridiculous that Pizza Hut wants the highest court in the land to spend its time and taxpayer dollars to decide who has a better pizza.”
Tricon defended its move however, stating that the materiality definition “has substantial practical implications. It is a much bigger issue than whether ‘Better Ingredients, Better Pizza’ is false or misleading.”