280 U.S. 19 (1929), 8, Federal Trade Commission v. Klesner

Docket Nº:No. 8
Citation:280 U.S. 19, 50 S.Ct. 1, 74 L.Ed. 138
Party Name:Federal Trade Commission v. Klesner
Case Date:October 14, 1929
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 19

280 U.S. 19 (1929)

50 S.Ct. 1, 74 L.Ed. 138

Federal Trade Commission



No. 8

United States Supreme Court

Oct. 14, 1929

Argued April 10, 1929



1. Section 5 of the federal Trade Commission Act, unlike the Interstate Commerce Act, does not provide private persons with an administrative remedy for private wrongs. P. 25.

2. A complaint may be filed under § 5 only "if it shall appear to the Commission that a proceeding by it in respect thereof would be to the interest of the public," and this requirement is not satisfied merely by proof that there has been misapprehension and confusion on the part of purchasers, or even that they have been deceived.

Page 20

To justify filing a complaint, the public interest must be specific and substantial. P. 27.

3. The Commission has jurisdiction of a complaint authorized by its resolution declaring in appropriate form that the Commission has reason to believe that the party complained of is violating § 5 of the Act and that it appears to the Commission that a proceeding in respect thereof would be in the interest of the public; but its action in authorizing the filing of a complaint, like its action in making an order thereon, is subject to judicial review. P. 29.

4. Whenever in the course of the proceeding before the Commission the specific facts established show, as a matter of law, that the proceeding is not in the public interest, the Commission should dismiss the complaint, and if, instead, it enters an order and brings suit to enforce it, the court, without inquiry into the merits, should dismiss the suit. P. 30.

5. S had long engaged in the business of making and selling window shades in the District of Columbia under the name "The Shade Shop," and in 1914 occupied part of K's store. In 1915, S removed from K's shop in violation of his agreement. As a result of the ensuing controversy, K, who had previously sold window shades only incidentally to his principal business of painting and paperhanging, opened that line in the space vacated by S and advertised it as "Shade Shop," generally with the qualification "Hooper & Klesner." Five years later, and after S's suit for an injunction had been dismissed by the Supreme Court of the District, the complaint before the Commission was filed. A desist order was entered nearly two years later. This suit to enforce the Commission's order was begun nearly nine years after K had instituted the course of conduct complained of. No claim was made that K's goods were inferior to S's or that the public otherwise suffered financially. Held, that the filing of the complaint was not in the public interest, and that this suit should therefore be dismissed. P. 30.

25 F.2d 524 affirmed.

Certiorari, 278 U.S. 591, to review a judgment of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia dismissing a suit to enforce an order of the federal Trade Commission. The judgment is affirmed on a ground different from that adopted by the court below. For earlier decisions in the same case, see 6 F.2d 701; 274 U.S. 145.

Page 22

BRANDEIS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case is here on certiorari, for the second time. It was brought in the court of appeals of the District of Columbia by the federal Trade Commission under § 5 of the Act of September 26, 1914, c. 311, 38 Stat. 717, 719, to enforce an order entered by it. The order directs Klesner, an interior decorator, who does business in Washington under the name of Hooper & Klesner, to

cease and desist from using the words "Shade Shop" standing alone or in conjunction with other words as an identification of the business conducted by him, in any manner of advertisement, signs, stationery, telephone, or business directories, trade lists or otherwise.

That court dismissed the suit on the ground that, unlike United States circuit courts of appeals, it lacked jurisdiction to enforce orders of the Federal Trade Commission. 6 F.2d 701. On the first certiorari, we reversed the decree and directed that the cause be remanded for further proceedings. Federal Trade Commission v. Klesner, 274 U.S. 145. Then the case was reargued before the court of appeals, on the pleadings and a transcript of the record before the

Page 23

Commission, and was dismissed on the merits, with costs. 25 F.2d 524. This second writ of certiorari was thereupon granted. 278 U.S. 591. We are of opinion that the decree of the court of appeals should be affirmed -- not on the merits, but upon the ground that the filing of the complaint before the Commission was not in the public interest.

The conduct which the Commission held to be an unfair method of competition practiced within the District had been persisted in by Klesner ever since December, 1915. The complaint before the Commission was filed on December 18, 1920. The order sought to be enforced was entered June 23, 1922. This suit was begun on May 13, 1924. The evidence before the Commission, which occupies 394 pages of the printed record in this Court, is conflicting only to a small extent. The findings of the Commission are in substance as follows:


To continue reading