Marketers could face more lawsuits over meanings

Marketers should be cautious over the interpretation of adverts describing goods and services following a court ruling.

A ruling over Asda’s use of words in its advertising could open the floodgates for more litigation, warns intellectual property law firm Kempner & Partners as companies can now sue over the meaning of words following a case brought against Asda by Ajinomoto Sweeteners Europe..

The law firm says: “The law now recognises that advertising may now have multiple meanings and if any of them are untrue, companies could leave themselves open to action”.

Asda was taken to court in 2007 following an ad campaign claiming that its 9,000 own-label food and drinks products would contain “No Nasties” such as artificial colours, preservatives, hydrogenated vegetable oils and aspartame.

Asda also included the words “No Hidden Nasties” on packaging for its Good for You range.

An appeal overruled a decision by a high court judge that the words used should only be attributed a single meaning.

By overturning the “single meaning rule” marketers will have to consider every possible meaning that could be attributed to words used in advertising.

Kempner partner Stuart Jackson, says: “The Court of Appeal’s ruling is one that all businesses will need to be very aware of when planning any advertising or promotion campaign that might mention or even just allude to anyone else’s products or services.

“And if companies spot their wares being referred to by others, they may now be able to stop that and recover damages when previously they would not have been able to do so.”

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here