• BGH: Fruit Juice Can Be Promoted with Description “Lernstark”
  • February 11, 2016
  • Law Firm: GRP Rainer LLP - Cologne Office
  • In its judgment of December 10, the BGH ruled that statements such as “lernstark” (fast learner) and “Mit Eisen zur Unterstützung der Konzentrationsfähigkeit” (with iron to promote concentration) are permissible on foodstuffs (I ZR 222/13).

    GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: The 1st Civil Panel of the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice), competent to hear cases pertaining, among other things, to competition law, had to rule on whether a producer of fruit juice could promote its product with the aforementioned statements on the label of the bottle.

    A consumer association had brought an action against this, arguing that the statements breached European regulations on nutrition and health claims relating to foodstuffs, i.e. they infringed the so-called “Health-Claims-Verordnung” (Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006). It claimed that these statements together with the illustration of a girl on the label gave the impression that the fruit juice supports a child’s learning process. The association went on to say that the Regulation imposes particular tough requirements on promotional health claims concerning products intended for children, which is why they sought an injunction. The courts of lower instance reached different conclusions, resulting in the case coming before the Bundesgerichtshof. The Karlsruhe judges dismissed the claim.

    They stated that iron was included in a list of permissible nutritional information from 2012 because iron is said to contribute to the “normal cognitive (mental) development of children”. That is why the statement was permissible. Since this information was preceded by the statement “lernstark”, the Panel ruled that the latter also did not breach the applicable regulations. The statements did not infringe European consumer protection provisions.

    Advertising, especially with respect to products that are geared for children, can be a tightrope walk. It is possible to unintentionally infringe competition law, particularly the German Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb (UWG) [Unfair Competition Act]. Competition law infringements may be met with tough sanctions, such as formal warnings, damages claims or injunctions, which can draw businesses into lengthy legal disputes. Lawyers who are competent in the field of competition law are able to assist businesses in fending off as well as enforcing claims arising from infringements of competition law.