Do you have any doubts we live in a litigious society? Check out this food fight.
Is there free speech in this country? For pornography, yes. For pizza, no.
In January a Dallas, Tex. federal magistrate, William Sanderson Jr., declared that Papa Johns slogan "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza," was misleading and deceptive. He awarded the plaintiff, Pizza Hut, $468,000 in damages and ordered Papa Johns International to abandon the slogan.
How did the judge know that Papa Johns ingredients were not better? He checked out the dough and the sauce and concluded that the two brands of pizza were similar. Should the decision stand, commercial speech, never high in the pantheon of civil liberties, will be in a parlous state.
Burger King claims its hamburger "just tastes better." Can McDonalds litigate the point? Snapple brags its "made from the best stuff on earth." Will owner Triarc have to prove that claim? In the pizza world theres Mr. Gattis "Best Pizza in Town" and the slogan "The Best Pizzas Under One Roof." That last one belongs to — youll never guess — Pizza Hut.
Apart from standing as a rather unusual precedent in litigating advertising puffery, the Texas decision is of great consequence to the parties.
If the ruling survives in federal appeals court, it could dramatically change the advertising business. What about slogans like "Virginia is for lovers"? Asks Ronald Rotunda, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Illinois in Champaign: "Are we going to have 49 other states lining up on the federal dockets demanding that Virginia prove it, and a judge deciding whether its true?" Sara Lee Corp. claims that "Nobody doesnt like Sara Lee." Aha! A rival finds someone who doesnt.