The United States Supreme Court today refused to review an appellate court decision that found a pizza company’s advertising to be deceptive, but ”immaterial” to consumers. The Pizza Hut v. Papa John’s lawsuit stems from Papa John’s $300 million comparative advertising campaign claiming ”better quality ingredients” than the competition.
”We have said all along that this case is about the consumer’s right to expect truthfulness in advertising,” said Mike Rawlings, president, Pizza Hut. ”No advertiser has ever been able to defend a campaign that is deceptive on the basis that the public doesn’t care. We are disappointed the Court did not seize this opportunity to clarify this matter for the benefit of consumers and responsible advertisers, alike.”
Pizza Hut originally sued Papa John’s in 1998 over its advertising campaign that contained dozens of separate ads claiming Papa John’s pizzas had superior ingredients and, therefore, better taste. A federal district court agreed with the jury. Specifically, the jury and the court held that Papa John’s sauce, dough and taste test claims were false and misleading, and when combined with the ”Better Ingredients, Better Pizza” slogan, the latter became false and misleading.
Last fall, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the jury verdict ruling that Papa John’s advertising campaign was deceptive, but not “material” to consumers. In its petition to the Supreme Court, Pizza Hut argued that the appellate court departed from well-settled principles in false advertising law, which mandate that factual claims intended to influence consumer purchasing decisions must be truthful.
”After trial, Papa John’s defense was that no reasonable consumer would ever believe its advertising or slogan,” stated Robert Millen, senior vice president and general counsel, Pizza Hut. ”The courts said the advertising campaign was deceptive, so at least we are all in agreement that consumers should discount Papa John’s advertising.”
Named the number one national pizza chain in America by Restaurants & Institutions “2001 Choice in Chains” survey, Pizza Hut, a division of Tricon Global Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:YUM) is the world’s largest pizza restaurant company with more than 8,000 units in the U.S. and nearly 4,000 restaurants in 90 countries. The company is the recognized leader in the $25 billion pizza category. Those hungry for more information can go to the Pizza Hut home page at www.pizzahut.com.