Intellectual Property Team Wins Jury Verdict for Cruise Operator in False Advertising Lanham Act Case
Los Angeles, Calif. (July 16, 2019) - A trial team lead by Los Angeles Partners Daniel C. DeCarlo, Thomas S. Kiddé and Joshua S. Hodas, Ph.D. recently won a unanimous jury verdict in a trial held in Los Angeles Federal District Court in June 2019. The case was brought under the Federal Lanham Act and included claims of false advertising. Lewis Brisbois represented Harbor Breeze Corporation, the largest operator of recreational boating tours in Long Beach, California.
For the second time in a decade, Harbor Breeze had accused its competitors Newport Landing, Davey's Locker, and their affiliates (which essentially operated as a single entity and utilized the same false advertising schemes) of using internet advertising to deceive the consuming public and drive traffic to the defendants' internet sites, negatively impacting their business. In the earlier action, Harbor Breeze had also secured a favorable jury verdict.
The trial focused primarily on the defendants' practices of deceiving customers on pricing by advertising a low price that would appear on Google searches as the "bait" to induce clicks, followed by a "switch" when the consumer was directed to the defendants' websites. Ultimately, when the consumer attempted to purchase the cruise as advertised, the advertised price was never made available for purchase. Instead, the defendants would not permit a purchase until the consumer paid for additional fees which were given legitimate sounding names, like "wharfage" and "fuel" fees.
Our team presented evidence at trial to establish that the fees were concocted and part of a scheme to increase revenue while unfairly competing by falsely advertising super-low pricing that the defendants never intended to honor and did not honor. The jury found our presentation persuasive and found unanimously for Harbor Breeze, determining that the defendants' scheme was deceptive to a "substantial segment" of customers.
Mr. DeCarlo, who is co-chair of Lewis Brisbois' Intellectual Property & Technology Practice, said of the jury's verdict: "This ruling advances not only the interests of our client, but also those of other cruise operators in the area who have been forced to compete with these false advertising schemes, and the consuming public who were deceived into paying more than what was advertised."
Harbor Breeze will now return to the District Court to seek appropriate injunctive relief to halt the false advertising. You can read more about this verdict in FishRapNews.com.