In a case brought by Ajinomoto Sweeteners Europe against Asda, the court said the “single meaning rule” no longer applies in cases of malicious falsehood.
This means that brands using a strapline that makes a direct or indirect reference to a competitor’s products or services could now end up in court more easily.
In the case against Asda, the offending words were “no hidden nasties”, which the company used on its Good For You range of foods. The “nasties” included aspartame, prompting Ajinomoto – which produces the ingredient – to accuse Asda of malicious falsehood.
The Court of Appeal recognised that any advertising may have multiple meanings and the word nasty could be construed by some to mean harmful to health.
Stuart Jackson, a partner at Kempner & Partners, the law firm advising Asda, says: “People need to be more careful about what they say or write, and to think of every possible meaning that any group of people could understand those words to mean.”
Leigh Ellis, intellectual property partner at Gillhams Solicitors, says “Claimants that have been harmed by statements will not be locked out of a remedy because ’most’ people would not think the words had caused reputational damage.”
Asda has launched an appeal against the ruling.
A previous version of this story that appeared on Marketingweek.co.uk incorrectly stated that the Court had upheld the claim of malicious falsehood against Asda.