NYU Langone Health sued Northwell Health over ads that NYU said...

NYU Langone Health sued Northwell Health over ads that NYU said were similar to their own. Credit: NYU Langone Health

A Manhattan federal judge on Friday dismissed a trademark lawsuit brought by NYU Langone against Northwell Health over using the color purple in advertising.

The Manhattan-based NYU hospital network sued in the summer of 2023 accusing Northwell, a New Hyde Park-based hospital chain, of hurting business by using the same grape hue in its ads. The lawsuit claimed that Northwell’s use of purple, which NYU Langone said had been synonymous with its hospitals for more than 100 years, confused potential customers.

NYU Langone said that Northwell had plagiarized its ad style by using similar plum background, fonts, type and formats.

In the suit, Judge Valerie Caproni found the Manhattan health chain’s claim of infringement too broad, considering the variations used.

“Even among ads that are predominantly purple, the shade of purple varies; some have all-cap white writing; some have all-white sentence case writing; and some have a mix of white and other color writing,” the judge wrote in her decision. “The Court cannot ascertain specific fonts, colors, or headline styles from NYU Langone’s description of its trade dress.”

Caproni said that she expected NYU Langone to be more specific regarding the infringement after Northwell filed its motion to dismiss, but the hospital chain did not. The judge dismissed the claim, but in her decision she allowed NYU Langone to amend its complaint and try again.

“We are pleased the court recognized that NYU Langone may have an actionable claim against Northwell’s imitation of NYU Langone’s distinctive advertising and look forward to providing the court with greater detail,” spokesman Steve Ritea said in an email Saturday.

In the suit, Langone also took issue with Northwell claiming that its Lenox Hill Hospital is “NYC’s only hospital in the Nation’s Top 50,” based on the ranking from Healthgrades, and calling it “the best in Manhattan.”

NYU Langone claimed that was false advertising because U.S. News & World Report deemed it to be “No. 1 in New York State and in the New York City Metro area.”

Caproni cut through both “best of” claims, citing well-established federal case law that protects such hype, calling it “non-actionable puffery.”

The judge tossed out that claim.

“While we are pleased by these rulings, we are disappointed in NYU Langone’s continuing waste of resources and funds and diverting the attention of the communities we both serve with such baseless allegations,” Northwell's marketing head, Ramon Soto, said in an email Saturday.

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