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Dr. Bonner’s Magic Soaps Can Sue Over Labeling

(CN) - The maker of Dr. Bonner's Magic Soaps can sue an organic beauty products group to block it from establishing official "organic" standards, a California appeals court ruled. The justices rejected a motion to strike, saying the proposed standards were commercial speech, which isn't protected by laws shielding defendants from strategic lawsuits.

Organic and Sustainable Industry Standards (OASIS) sought to establish standards for an "OASIS Organic" seal that could apply to its members' beauty products.

All One God Faith Inc., which makes Dr. Bonner's Magic Soaps, complained that the OASIS standards would allow products to be labeled organic even if they contained "cleansing agents made from non-organic material that has been hydrogenated and/or sulfated, and preserved with petrochemicals."

OASIS moved to strike the complaint by stating that Dr. Bonner was trying to restrain its freedom of speech. Dr. Bonner countered that OASIS was exercising commercial speech, which isn't covered by the anti-SLAPP statute protecting defendants from lawsuits aimed at suppressing speech. (SLAPP stands for "strategic litigation against public participation.)

The trial court agreed with the organic soap maker, and the 1st District Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed.

"OASIS's certification activities are not in furtherance of its speech in connection with a public issue," Justice Terence Bruiniers wrote.

"While the act of formulating a proposed industry 'organic' standard may constitute protected activity, we find that the certification of products which Dr. Bonner seeks to enjoin in its third cause of action is not," he wrote.

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