Macy's, Penney war over Martha Stewart brand

At the heart of the tria is whether

At the heart of the tria is whether Macy’s has the exclusive right to sell Martha Stewart-branded products, above, in such categories as cookware, bedding and bath. (Nov. 7, 2007) Photo Credit: AP

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Let the pots and pans fly.

Two of the nation's biggest department stores -- J.C. Penney and Macy's -- have begun to duke it out in New York State Supreme Court over the right to sell Martha Stewart merchandise.

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At the heart of the trial, which got under way Wednesday, is whether Macy's has the exclusive right to sell Martha Stewart-branded products in such categories as cookware, bedding and bath. Company founder Martha Stewart, J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson and Macy's CEO Terry J. Lundgren could be called to testify during the trial, which could last three weeks.

In December 2011, J.C. Penney announced a partnership in which it would open Martha Stewart mini shops in most of its stores, beginning this spring. It also said that it had acquired a 16.6 percent stake in Martha Stewart Living. The deal is part of J.C. Penney's plan to revive the struggling department store under Johnson's leadership.

Macy's sued Martha Stewart Living almost immediately, saying it had exclusive rights on certain of its products until 2018. The pact goes back to 2007.

Macy's has "invested significant sums, taken risks and endured a period of disappointing results in order to re-build the Martha Stewart brand . . . [Penney] is trying to harvest the field planted and cultivated by Macy's," said Macy's spokesman Jim Sluzewksi.

According to a memo filed by J.C. Penney, Macy's rights to Martha Stewart aren't nearly as sweeping as it suggests. "Macy's should stop competing in the courtroom and start competing in the marketplace," the company said in its memo.

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