By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) - A federal appeals court said on Tuesday the pomegranate juice maker Pom Wonderful LLC may try to stop a rival from selling a pomegranate-flavored energy drink labeled "pom," in a reversal of a lower court ruling in the trademark lawsuit.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California, said a lower court judge abused her discretion in January when she concluded that Pom did not deserve a preliminary injunction against Pur Beverages LLC.
U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow in Los Angeles had ruled that Pom was unlikely to show that shoppers would be confused by the rival products, which have different packaging, and was therefore unlikely to succeed on the merits.
But a three-judge appeals court panel said Morrow "clearly erred," given that the products' names were "visually, aurally, and semantically similar," and that the drinks were marketed to similar, health-conscious consumers at similar price points.
"The district court's likelihood-of-confusion finding leaves us with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed," Circuit Judge David Ebel wrote for the panel.
Ebel directed Morrow to consider whether Pom deserved a preliminary injunction because its absence might cause irreparable harm to the Los Angeles-based company, and because it would serve the public interest.
Pur operates in Bloomington, Minnesota, court records show.
The companies and their lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Pom began using the "POM" trademark for beverages in 2002, and has sold more than 190 million bottles of pomegranate juice.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Pom could pursue a false advertising lawsuit against Coca Cola Co for marketing a Minute Maid "pomegranate blueberry" juice blend made almost entirely from apple and grape juices.
Ebel normally sits with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
The case is Pom Wonderful LLC v. Hubbard et al, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-55253.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)