NEW YORK — Although witnesses reported that employees of Fendi Stores made disparaging remarks about Fashion Boutique of Short Hills, a former Fendi franchisee, a federal judge tossed out a section of Fashion Boutique’s suit against Fendi.
Fashion Boutique, in a suit filed in 1991, said it was forced to close in July 1991 because of statements made by employees of the Fendi store, which opened on Fifth Avenue in October 1989. The suit charged unfair competition under the Federal Lanham Act and New York State common law.
Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum ruled the evidence insufficient to find a violation of the Lanham Act and dismissed that part of the suit. The action continues against Fendi USA Inc. and Fendi Stores Inc. on claims under New York State law.
Among the disparaging statements made to undercover investigators sent by Fashion Boutique and to other witnesses, according to the decision, were that Fashion Boutiques sold “fake” or inferior Fendi merchandise and that the New York store had received many complaints about customer service in the Short Hills store.
Cedarbaum ruled the evidence not sufficient for granting a judgment. She ruled the “relevant purchasing public” in the case consists of thousands of consumers, yet after years of investigation, “Fashion Boutique can show only that 12 customers and nine undercover investigators sent to instigate statements about the Short Hills store, heard defendants’ employees make disparaging comments.”
Also, the judge said, there was no evidence that the defendants initiated any communications to the public that would constitute advertising or promotion within the meaning of the Lanham Act.