A California federal court has denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging Barilla America Inc. misled consumers as to the source of its pasta products by marketing them as “Italy’s #1 Brand of Pasta.” Sinatro v. Barilla Am. Inc., No. 22-3460 (N.D. Cal., entered October 17, 2022). The court first held that the plaintiffs had standing to sue because the “allegations are sufficient to establish an economic injury for purposes of constitutional standing,” but it found that the plaintiff lacked standing for injunctive relief.

Turning to whether a reasonable consumer could be misled by Barilla’s claims, the court was unpersuaded by Barilla’s argument that “it is not misleading to
invoke the company’s Italian roots ‘through generalized representations of the brand as a whole.’”

“Barilla asks the court to assume that consumers would solely perceive the Challenged Representation to mean that the products at issue are part of the Barilla brand, and not that they are made in Italy from Italian ingredients. In other words, Barilla asks the court to decide as a matter of law that the Challenged Representation can mean only one thing. However, Plaintiffs have alleged that the Challenged Representation appears with the colors of the Italian flag, and that this imagery further reinforces the notion that the products ‘are authentic pastas from Italy,’” the court held. “The Challenged Representation is also part of the products’ packaging in the context of an alleged marketing campaign that emphasizes the company’s Italian identity, including a website ‘that markets the Barilla® brand and company as undeniably Italian, dedicated to the manufacturing, marketing, and selling of Italian-made pastas.’”

Finding that the plaintiffs plausibly alleged that reasonable consumers could be confused by the labeling, the court denied Barilla’s motion to dismiss.

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