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Lexmark T644 laser printerLexmark T644 laser printer (Photo: Bidgee via Wikimedia Commons)

Businesses can invoke the Lanham Act in suing other companies for false advertising, even if they are not direct competitors, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Tuesday.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing the opinion in Lexmark International Inc. v. Static Control Components Inc., said that in a Lanham Act case “a plaintiff must plead (and ultimately prove) an injury to a commercial interest in sales or business reputation proximately caused by the defendant’s misrepresentations,” but need not be a competitor, as some appeals courts have ruled.

The decision would expand the scope of an important tool in business litigation, said Tom Williams, partner at Ulmer & Berne and author of a book on the Lanham Act and false advertising. “It provides federal jurisdiction for advertising claims and the full panoply of Lanham Act remedies—injunctive relief, damages and attorney fees,” Williams said.

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