A California federal judge overseeing Monster Energy Co.’s false advertising lawsuit against Vital Pharmaceuticals, Inc. upheld the jury’s nearly $293 million verdict—the largest in Lanham Act history—and awarded Monster an additional $43M after finding the case was “exceptional.”
“The judge’s additional award of $43 million, to include attorneys’ fees and all expenses, represents a complete victory for Monster. Coming after securing the largest trademark infringement award in U.S. history, this brings the total recovered for Monster across two recent trials to over half a billion dollars,” said Allison Libeu.
In September 2022 after a five-week trial, a nine-person jury found that Vital Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (VPX) and its CEO, Jack Owoc, falsely advertised the “Super Creatine” ingredient of Bang energy drink, handing Monster a record-breaking verdict. At trial, Monster presented scientific and other evidence that Bang did not contain creatine and that creatine is not even water-soluble and cannot be put into a drink. The jury also found that VPX stole Monster’s trade secrets and interfered with Monster’s contracts for shelf space with major retailers.
Following trial, VPX requested a new trial or judgment notwithstanding the verdict. VPX also asked, in the alternative, that the Court reduce what VPX called the jury’s “grossly excessive” damages award. The judge denied VPX’s motions in their entirety, explicitly holding that “the evidence supports the jury’s damages award.” The judge found that “Monster presented evidence that Defendants’ false advertising harmed Monster’s sales across its product portfolio”; that “Vital engaged in a ‘widespread effort’ to interfere with Monster’s contracted shelf placements”; and that “Monster proved at trial that…Vital misappropriated [Monster’s] trade secret.”
After upholding the jury’s damages award, the Court addressed Monster’s request for equitable relief. The Court upheld its earlier finding that Monster is entitled to a permanent injunction prohibiting VPX and Mr. Owoc “from falsely or deceptively claiming that Super Creatine is creatine, that Bang contains creatine, and that Bang or Super Creatine provide the physical, mental, health, or other benefits of creatine.”
The Court further held that the case was “exceptional” under the Lanham Act. The judge found that jury’s unanimous finding that VPX’s and Mr. Owoc’s false advertising was “willful and deliberate” reflected the substantive strength of Monster’s position. The judge also found that VPX and Mr. Owoc litigated the case in an unreasonable manner. “During trial, Mr. Owoc refused to cooperate at times and displayed a disrespect for the judicial process. He repeatedly tried to reference documents that the Court had excluded. He refused to answer straightforward questions during cross-examination, despite admonitions from the Court. He berated Monster’s counsel and the Court had to instruct the jury to disregard any disparaging remarks this witness has made against opposing counsel.” In addition, “Mr. Owoc contradicted his prior sworn testimony numerous times and Monster’s counsel impeached him over 50 times.”
Given the exceptional nature of the case, the judge awarded Monster an additional $20,972,953.90 in attorneys’ fees, $6,709,552.18 in costs, $101,028.60 in expert witness expenses, and $15,256,554.65 in prejudgment interest. Combined with the jury’s verdict, Monster’s award totals $336 million, likely the largest in Lanham Act history.
The Hueston Hennigan team included John Hueston, Moez Kaba, Allison Libeu, Lauren McGrory Johnson, Sourabh Mishra, Michael Todisco, Julia Haines, Justin Greer and Amber Munoz.