In September 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) announced a new policy that provides for the release of a list of retailers that have received a food subject to recall. In the past, the FDA did not release such information because the agency deemed it confidential commercial information. The lack of information on the part of the FDA has been a huge detriment to the public. Prior to the new guidance, the public would only find out information about the particular food that was being recalled, not where this recalled food was available for purchase. The public was told just to stop purchasing that recalled food, whether it be romaine lettuce or beef, even if there were retailers who were selling non-contaminated products. This procedure not only hurts the public but also has a huge financial effect on those retailers who are not selling contaminated or recalled products. The FDA has effectuated a new guidance because they have found that such information is necessary to enforce a recall and to ensure public safety.
Despite the United States having one of the safest food supplies in the world, more than 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses and diseases each year, and more than 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from similar issues that are largely preventable. On January 04, 2011 President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (“FSMA”) into law. This enactment was called the “most sweeping reform” of U.S. Food Safety laws in more than seventy years. But seven years later, the act is still only partially enforced as the FDA has faced resistance from the government as well as a lack of funding. The FMSA was and is intended to enable the FDA to protect the health of the public by strengthening the food system in the United States. While change and reform in the industry are necessary, what good are new reforms if they will not be enforced for years to come?
In 2014, in the District Court of Arizona, a judge ruled that “Google” was not a generic term and was eligible to receive trademark protection in Elliott v. Google. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. In 2011, Forbes estimated that the “Google” trademark was worth $113 Billion; the trademark is worth more now in 2018 and the company’s trademark is likely its most valuable asset. The suit first ensued when Elliott purchased over 700 domain names with the word “Google” and after the company had successfully won a name dispute, Elliott filed to cancel “Google” trademarks. Elliott claimed that Google was a generic term and should not receive trademark protection. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling in this case will most definitely affect companies and entrepreneurs of all sizes, perhaps giving companies more protection than they were afforded in the past; what some are calling an unintended consequence.
On June 19, 2017, the Supreme Court, in an 8-0 ruling, found that the government can no longer sensor trademarks on the grounds that they may be offensive. In Matal v. Tam, the Supreme Court Justices found the seventy-one year old rule allowing the government to refuse offensive trademarks to be unconstitutional and to violate free speech and first amendment rights. The justices were unable to agree on exactly what legal standard was to apply to the present case or future cases. The revocation of this seventy-one year old rule that has affected the registration of many marks over the years is bound to have an effect on the future of trademark law and trademark litigation. Immediately following the Supreme Court’s decision, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was inundated with requests to register offensive trademarks.
The cosmetics industry, unknown to many, is essentially not regulated by a federal regulatory agency. Cosmetics technically fall under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), but there are few requirements that manufacturers must comply with. The FDA only requires that manufacturers comply with several labeling regulations so companies can avoid listing a product’s total ingredients, and the FDA does not require manufacturers to report health complaints. The FDA instead relies on direct reports of adverse events from consumers, which has the potential to delay remedying a potentially dangerous situation. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that between 2015 and 2016, the number of complaints of adverse health results related to cosmetic products more than doubled from the previous years. Additionally, the FDA only has the equivalent of six full-time inspectors to monitor three million shipments of cosmetics that come into the United States each year. Last year, inspectors only conducted tests on about 364 of those shipments, and 20 % of those shipment that were inspected led to adverse findings.
Nearly 40% of publishers using native advertising are not compliant with the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) guidelines; this figure has improved from one year ago, when only 30% of users were following the guidelines. In 2017 alone, the FTC estimates that the revenue generated from native advertising will total $20.9 billion, with an estimated 610 new advertisers each month this number is projected to increase to $59 billion in 2018. The number of corporations using native advertising has increased over the years because of social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, where much of the in-feed content is paid or sponsored.
On May 20, 2016 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new nutrition facts label for packaged foods, the first significant makeover in twenty years. The new label reflects new scientific information regarding our diets; such as the link between diet and chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease. This new label comes after three years of negotiations and proposed improvements between the FDA, scientists, and lobbying groups. Those in favor of the changes have pointed out that the old nutrition fact labels had no information to help consumers determine if they were complying with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines’ recommendations and that the labels did not reflect the necessary nutrients per day. These changes affect manufacturers as well as consumers. Manufacturers are not only worried about having to reformulate their foods, but also having to reconsider their ability to make certain nutrient content claims in advertisements and on packaging. Companies will also have to consider additional costs associated with packaging design, development of new artwork, regulatory consultation and review to ensure label compliance, reconsideration of inconsistent advertising, and human costs associated with potential new operating procedures and training to ensure compliance with the new regulations. In response to complaints from manufacturers, consumer advocates are reminding the White House Administration to remember that the FDA’s mission is protect the health of the American people not the bottom line of manufacturers.