US apparel companies using small amounts of non-domestic components in “made in USA” clothing have been dealt a blow by a federal judge.

According to a report from legal firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, the judge declined to throw out a class action lawsuit arguing that such clothing is in violation of California’s famously strict false advertising law.

In Paz v AG Adriano Goldschmeid Inc et al, the defendant had asked the court to dismiss the suit on the basis that the Californian law conflicts with federal legislation, which offers more flexibility on the use of the “made in USA” label.

But the court held that apparel companies could comply with federal and Californian legislation by meeting the Californian standards within the state, and abiding by the federal law elsewhere – a potentially costly exercise.

However, the judge also indicated for the first time that using qualifying language around the “made in USA” claim – for instance, saying “made in USA of imported fabric and components” – would not infringe the Californian law.

Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg said apparel companies were “particularly vulnerable” to claims of violating the Californian law because items are typically made from many components sourced from all over the world.