Law & Ethics in the Business Environment

Because of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act prohibits beer labels from displaying alcohol content, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms rejected respondent brewer’s application for approval of proposed labels that disclosed such content. Respondent filed suit for relief on the ground that the relevant provisions of the Act violated the First Amendment’s protection of commercial speech. (Rubin v. Coors, 514 U.S. 476 (1995). The Supreme Court determined that Coors was engaged in commercial speech that was protected by the First Amendment because the disclosure of the alcohol content on the labeling was indeed a lawful activity and did not mislead the public. This would later lead the U.S Supreme court to create a four step test for commercial speech to see if it would be protected under the first amendment. 

 In the case of Rubin V.Coors, 514 U.S. 476 (1995), the speech was clearly commercial as determined by the Supreme Court. However, the government could not justify the ban under the first amendment as the company wanted to let its consumers know about the content of the alcohol they are drinking. Moreover, in the hypothetical case, that Coors starts to sell cocaine and wants to disclose the purity of their cocaine on the packaging, and in their advertisement, it will be definitely commercial speech as they are labeling and are not misleading their consumers. Similarly, if they disclose the purity of the cocaine, it would still be protected under the first amendment.

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