false advertising

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False advertising is an actionable civil claim under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act. A party who successfully sues for false advertising may be entitled to either damages or injunctive relief

To bring a claim for false advertising, the plaintiff must show:

  • The defendant made false or misleading statements as to their own products (or another’s); 
  • Actual deception occurred, or at least a tendency to deceive a substantial portion of the intended audience; 
  • The deception is material in that it is likely to influence purchasing decisions; 
  • The advertised goods travel in interstate commerce; and 
  • There was a likelihood of injury to the plaintiff. 

Notably, the plaintiff does not need to show that they suffered actual injury from the defendant’s allegedly false advertising. That said, puffery, or claims a person could not reasonably rely upon, are not grounds for a false advertising claim.

[Last updated in January of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]