Arthur R. Lehman, L.L.C.

What is false advertising?

If it wasn't for advertisements, New York residents probably wouldn't be introduced to new products or learn more details about products they are currently using. Advertisements are the way companies speak to existing and potential customers-they give them information about the product and its benefits, whether the advertisement is in print or televised form. Since advertisements generally have the power to influence people to buy a product, it is very important that advertisements accurately represent the product and do not misguide the populace, either about the actual product or about its price.

According to federal law, an advertisement should not only be truthful but also, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence. The Federal Trade Commission, in charge of enforcing these regulations, applies the same standards regardless of where the ad appears, whether on billboards, buses, online, in the mail or in newspapers and magazines. Ads about products such as diet pills, dietary supplements, alcohol, and over the counter drugs that claim they can change a consumer's health or their pocketbook, are closely monitored by the FTC.

If the advertisement is misleading, a claim can be made against the relevant party. The person bringing the false advertising claim must show a number of things in order to be successful in the claim, including the fact that false or misleading statements were made and that there was either deception or a tendency to deceive a substantial portion of the intended audience. In addition to this, it must also be shown that the deception was likely to influence purchasing decisions and there was a likelihood of injury to plaintiff. However, it is not necessary to prove actual injury. Lastly, the goods advertised must have crossed state lines in commerce.

Intellectual property law can often be a complex branch of law. Resolving matters such as the nature of the statements and the deception intended may require some technical knowledge that an experienced professional may be able to provide.

Source: Federal Trade Commission, "Truth in Advertising," Accessed June 28, 2015

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