(CN) – A federal judge in Boston refused to block new Hoover infomercials that show vacuums and steam mops performing better than comparable Shark models.
Euro-Pro Operating LLC, which manufactures vacuums and steam mops under the Shark brand name, is a direct competitor of Hoover.
In February 2012, Hoover recorded two new infomercials promoting its TwinTank steam mop and WindTunnel vacuum. It spent a total of over $3 million to air the infomercials hundreds of times on at least 26 different networks.
In one infomercial, Hoover claimed that the TwinTank “makes other steam mops obsolete,” and shows the Shark and TwinTank mops side by side, with the text “Obsolete” above the Shark. It also showed the TwinTank perform better than a Shark at cleaning tile as a voiceover says, “As you can see, the Hoover TwinTank Steam Mop is truly a steam mop for cleaning things that other steam mops can’t.”
The infomercial for the Hoover WindTunnel showed the vacuum collapse 5-gallon water cooler jugs and lift 120 pounds with its suction power. It also showed children race to assemble different vacuums, including the Shark Navigator, and declared the WindTunnel the winner.
Euro-Pro sued Hoover’s parent company, TTI Floor Care North America, in March, asking the District of Massachusetts to enjoin further airings of the commercials. Without an injunction, Euro-Pro said it will lose “sales, shelf space, and market share” to Hoover’s products.
U.S. District Judge Denise Casper sided with TTI, finding that Euro-Pro failed to identify literally false claims.
“Euro-Pro is not likely to succeed on its claim that the ‘obsolete’ slogan used throughout the TwinTank infomercial is literally false and thus runs afoul of the Lanham Act,” Casper wrote.
The judge also dismissed Euro-Pro’s objection to Hoover’s head-to-head test of the two steam mops.
“Consumers could draw various messages from the demonstration, ranging from ‘the TwinTank always cleans any hard surface better than the Shark’ to ‘under certain conditions, the TwinTank may clean tile better than the Shark,’ to ‘the tile on the left has been stained more severely than the tile on the right,'” the decision states. “Neither these nor any other specific conclusion, however, is necessarily implied by the demonstration, precluding a finding of literal falsity.”
Regarding Hoover’s vacuum infomercial, Casper said: “The sections of the infomercial at issue here make clear that the demonstrations are being conducted under special and idealized conditions … and the infomercial stops well short of any express claim that the suction demonstrations establish how the WindTunnel would perform when cleaning floor or carpets in real-world conditions, explicitly inviting consumers to draw their own conclusions.”
Casper also found no evidence that Hoover misled consumers about WindTunnel assembly, despite Euro-Pro’s claim that “Hoover admits to individually coaching each child on how to assemble the vacuums.”
“Since Euro-Pro’s Lanham Act claims are the sole basis for all the various claims asserted by Euro-Pro, the court finds that Euro-Pro has failed at this juncture to demonstrate a likelihood of prevailing on the merits in this case,” Casper concluded.