Computer-Generated Animation in Court: A Case Study of a False Advertising Trial

Advertisers aren't afraid to take their cases to federal court, even if the advertising issue at hand isn't clearly false but is implicitly or explicitly misleading consumers.
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Sales is the lifeblood of every “business” on the face of the earth. No sales equal no revenue, and no revenue equals no profit, which is the primary goal of every business. Sales do not come out of the blue. Sales are made when a “customer” purchases a product or services of a company, and for a company to get customers, advertising is inevitable. 

The competition available in the market for products and services sometimes lead to businesses exaggerating claims and promising things they cannot deliver on just to “beat” their competitors. Some companies may opt to utilize a variety of questionable ways to exaggerate certain aspects of their products and services, even going so far as to enter into an unlawful territory, hence cooking up a recipe for a lawsuit against itself.

Advertising
Photograph by Austin Distel (unsplash.com)

Federal claim for False Advertising

There are state and federal laws under which a competitor, another business, or a consumer can bring legal actions against companies on the grounds of false or misleading advertising in the United States. A competitor can have a federal claim against a business for false advertising under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act.

In California, deceptive or misleading advertising is defined under the California Unfair Competition Law, which is detailed in California Business and Professions Code Sections 17200 through 17209. The case of Vitamins Online, Inc. v. Heartwise, Inc. at the United States District Court, D. Utah Central Division is also one that shows violations of the Lanham Act, which forbids false advertising, and Utah’s common law, on the grounds of unfair competition and false advertising practices, namely manipulated product reviews.

A competitor can sue a business for false advertising. A consumer can also sue them for deceiving them into purchasing or paying extra for the firm’s goods or services under certain advertising laws. The trial court can pass a judgment making them spend a lot of money in settlements and insist they remove certain words or phrases from the advertisement. 

As reported in an article by businessinsider.com, one of such cases is the case of Activia brand yogurt, where the trial landed the company in a class action settlement of $45 million and an order by the court to remove some words from its labels. Another case is the case of Kellogg, where the Federal Trade Commission ordered Kellogg to cease all advertising that claimed that its Rice Krispies cereal enhanced a child’s immunity with “25 percent Daily Value of Antioxidants and Nutrients” stating the claims were “dubious.” At the case settlement, Kellogg was instructed to pay $2.5 million to affected consumers and donate $2.5 million worth of Kellogg products to charity. 

Use of Computer-generated Animation

Like every other court case, some of these advertising cases can employ the use of computer-generated animation, which is a growing trend in law during the trial. One such case is Verizon Directories Corp. v. Yellow Book USA, Inc. at the United States District Court, E.D. New York.

Yellow Book USA, Inc. was sued by Verizon Directories Corporation, alleging that the defendant has utilized false or deceptive assertions in advertising and sales and marketing communications. During the trial, almost all exhibits were presented in computer-generated formats as well as hard copy. The computer-generated exhibits used during this trial are predominantly “still shot demonstratives.” Subtitles supplement the image of the exhibits, and on the monitors and widescreen, relevant video deposition testimony was broadcast.

Click here to see an example of a still-shot demonstrative created by Fox Animated Engineering or request for a still shot demonstrative for your case. 

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