Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Eleventh Circuit Holds that Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act Does Not Abrogate Prudential Standing Limitations

Per Phoenix of Broward, Inc., ex rel. Burger King Franchisees v. McDonald's Corp., --- F.3d ----, 2007 WL 1791886 (11th Cir. June 22, 2007):

The issue of whether prudential standing doctrine applies to § 43(a) of the Lanham Act is one of first impression in this circuit. The Third and Fifth Circuits have addressed this question, and both have held that Congress did not abrogate prudential limitations on the standing of plaintiffs to bring suit under § 43(a). See Conte Bros., 165 F.3d at 227-30; Procter & Gamble Co. v. Amway Corp., 242 F.3d 539, 561-62 (5th Cir.2001). We agree.

Congress is presumed to incorporate background prudential standing limitations unless the statute expressly negates such principles. Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154, 163, 117 S.Ct. 1154, 1162, 137 L.Ed.2d 281 (1997). Although § 43(a)'s use of the term “any person” might lead to the conclusion that Congress intended to negate the background of prudential standing by allowing “any person” who could achieve Article III standing to bring suit, “the Supreme Court has twice held that Congress has not expressly abrogated prudential standing doctrine merely by passing a statute the text of which admits a broad interpretation.” Conte Bros., 165 F.3d at 227. For example, in Associated General Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State Council of Carpenters, the Supreme Court held that Congress did not abrogate prudential standing principles when it enacted the Clayton Act, despite statutory language allowing “[a]ny person who shall be injured in his business or property” to bring suit under that act. 459 U.S. 519, 535 & n. 31, 103 S.Ct. 897, 907 & n. 31, 74 L.Ed.2d 723 (1983). And as noted by the courts in Conte Bros. and Procter & Gamble, language contained in § 45 of the Lanham Act “makes clear that the focus of the [Lanham Act] is on anti-competitive conduct in a commercial context,”FN1 so that conferring standing to the full extent implied by the plain language of § 43(a) would give standing to parties that have not had their competitive or commercial interests affected by the defendant's conduct. Conte Bros., 165 F.3d at 229; Procter & Gamble, 242 F.3d at 561. Rather, “[t]he congressionally-stated purpose of the Lanham Act” evinces a congressional “intent to limit standing to a narrow class of potential plaintiffs possessing interests the protection of which furthers” that congressionally stated purpose. Conte Bros., 165 F.3d at 229.

Accordingly, in light of the text of § 43(a) and the purpose of the Lanham Act as expressed in § 45, we join the Third and the Fifth Circuits and hold that Congress did not intend to abrogate prudential standing limitations when it enacted the Lanham Act.


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