It Depends on What the Meaning of 'False' is: Falsity and Misleadingness in Commercial Speech Doctrine

33 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2008


While scholarship regarding the Supreme Court's noncommercial speech doctrine has often focused on the level of protection for truthful, nonmisleading commercial speech, scholars have paid little attention to the exclusion of false or misleading commercial speech from all First Amendment protection. Examining the underpinnings of the false and misleading speech exclusion illuminates the practical difficulties that abolishing the commercial speech doctrine would pose. Through a series of fact patterns in trademark and false advertising cases, this piece demonstrates that defining what is false or misleading is often debatable. If commercial speech were given First Amendment protection, consumer protection and First Amendment protection would be at odds. Rebutting the idea that constitutionally protected commercial speech could effectively address consumer abuses through fraud statues and would not be offensive to the First Amendment, the piece explains that subjecting commercial speech to First Amendment scrutiny would almost completely contract the scope of false advertising law and erode consumer protection. The piece concludes that while excluding commercial speech from constitutional protection has real costs, we are better off in a system that regulates false and misleading commercial speech without heightened First Amendment scrutiny.

Keywords: first amendment, false advertising, commercial speech

Suggested Citation

Tushnet, Rebecca, It Depends on What the Meaning of 'False' is: Falsity and Misleadingness in Commercial Speech Doctrine. Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Vol. 41, 2008, Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 1117587, Available at SSRN:

Georgetown Law Center Submitter (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Rebecca Tushnet

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics