Update on the Coca-Cola and Aereo cases

I wrote earlier about two interesting cases for which oral arguments were heard before the US Supreme Court this week. One was heard on Monday and concerned a suit brought by the company POM Wonderful against Coca-Cola and the other was brought by the broadcast TV station ABC against Aereo and was heard on Tuesday.

In his reading of the oral arguments, in the first case, Ronald Mann says that almost all the justices seemed skeptical of Coca-Cola’s argument that as long as the FDA did not raise any objections, they could label as ‘Pomegranate Blueberry’ a juice drink that consisted of 99% apple and grape juice, 0.3% pomegranate juice, and 0.2% blueberry juice. Their argument was upheld in the lowers courts but it seemed to run into deep skepticism yesterday. Although it is always dangerous to predict a verdict based on oral arguments since justices sometimes take Devil’s Advocate stances, Mann thinks that this is one case where it is possible to do so and he thinks that there could even be a unanimous verdict reversing the Appeals Court decision. The transcript is here.

The Aereo case is trickier to gauge since some of the justices seem unsure about modern technology. For example, justice Antonin Scalia did not seem to be aware that the channel HBO was not broadcast over the air and could not be obtained free and thus was somewhat irrelevant to this case, while in order to make a point justice Stephen Breyer asked what a verdict in this case implied for a store that sold phonograph records. Lyle Denniston gives his analysis of the oral arguments and the transcript can be seen here.

Of course, all the justices have young law clerks working for them who will be able to tutor them on how all the varieties of modern communication services work so I would expect that Scalia and others will be better informed during their deliberations. But I was surprised that they did not seem to have done better preparation before the oral hearings so that they could have focused their questioning more closely on the key issues.


  1. Chiroptera says

    “And tha guy to runs Google: how does he type that list so fast every time I run a search on something?”

  2. moarscienceplz says

    The real question is how Aereo will impact the sale of Edison cylinders. 😉

    I’m really torn about this. On one hand, I applaud anything that is a threat to cable bundling practices. OTOH, I use only an antenna and the networks are threatening to stop over-the-air broadcasts altogether if Aereo prevails. However, I think local TV stations are required to maintain air signals, so the only way to do this would be for the networks to stop having local affiliates and become just like HBO. I’m sure the local stations would try to sue their pants off if they tried that, but would they prevail?
    Basically, the lawyers would have years of employment and we viewers probably end up getting screwed.

  3. says

    The real question is how Aereo will impact the sale of Edison cylinders. 😉

    Are you kidding? Aereo has already killed that technology dead!

  4. Timothy says

    SCOTUS understanding modern technology?!? Looks like we need to get some 15 year olds nominated to the Supreme Court in order to completely understand the impact of a SCOTUS ruling on technology. 🙂

    P.S. Fun fact! The Devil’s Advocate originated with the Catholic Church:


  5. Glenn says

    This will be an easy decision for the court:

    If the little man’s jobs are lost then the new technology is good; If the Big Boys’ profits are lost then the new technology is bad.

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