NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ A federal judge must reconsider a lawsuit claiming Amway Corp. distributors spread false rumors linking Procter & Gamble Co. to satanic cults, an appeals court ruled.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Wednesday ordered a Houston trial judge to reconsider product disparagement and racketeering claims dismissed in 1999.

But the court said Procter & Gamble did not have legal standing to claim Amway made misrepresentations to its distributors.

The lawsuit was one of several that Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble filed after rumors began circulating in the early 1980s that the company's logo _ a bearded, crescent man-in-the-moon looking over a field of 13 stars _ was a symbol of Satanism.

Procter & Gamble claimed distributors for Amway revived the rumors in 1995, using a voice mail system to tell thousands of customers that part of Procter & Gamble's profits go to satanic cults. Ada, Mich.-based Amway sells household products, many of which compete with Procter & Gamble's products, directly to customers.

Several distributors, including some from the Houston area, were accused of fraud and racketeering. Procter & Gamble also claimed the distributors disparaged Crest toothpaste and harmed other product sales by luring people into an illegal pyramid scheme.

Telephone calls to both companies seeking comment Thursday were not immediately returned.

Amway has said its distributors never spread the rumors.

A federal judge in Utah dismissed a similar case two years ago against Amway. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last August that the lower court erred in that decision and sent the case back to the Utah judge.