A bid by Macy's to stop JC Penney Co. from selling products designed by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. will be denied, a New York judge said after a hearing.
Justice Jeffrey Oing in Manhattan today said he will rule against Macy's request for a preliminary injunction blocking JC Penney from taking any steps under an agreement reached with Martha Stewart Living last year.
Macy's , the second-biggest U.S. department-store chain, sued Martha Stewart Living in January to stop it from executing a sales agreement with JC Penney announced in December, with Macy's claiming an exclusive right to sell Martha Stewart products in certain categories, including bedding and cookware.
Mr. Oing last month granted Macy's a preliminary injunction blocking Martha Stewart Living from taking any steps under its agreement with the Texas retailer on branded products in the exclusive product categories. Macy's this month filed a separate suit against JC Penney, seeking to block it from taking any steps under the pact.
Mr. Oing today said he was going to deny the request for a preliminary injunction against JC Penney, saying that Macy's hadn't proven that it was likely to succeed on its claims of tortious interference and unfair competition.
"It's one thing to enjoin" Martha Stewart Living, Mr. Oing said. "That company is at the centerpiece of these actions. It's another for me to enjoin a retailer from doing business. The retail business is a very competitive business."
JC Penney in December acquired a 17% stake in Martha Stewart Living for $38.5 million as the U.S. department-store chain seeks to revive sales with new mini-stores dedicated to the home goods brand.
Martha Stewart Living last month said JC Penney agreed to pay at least $282.9 million in sales commission over a 10-year period under an amended agreement, a $110.5 million increase from the terms disclosed in December. The amended pact also adds new products.
Macy's spokesman Jim Sluzewski didn't immediately return telephone messages seeking comment on the judge's ruling. Daphne Avila, a spokeswoman for JC Penney, didn't immediately reply to a voice-mail seeking comment.
Theodore Grossman, an attorney with Jones Day in New York who is representing Macy's , argued that the retailer will suffer irreparable harm if JC Penney is allowed to continue working under the contract with Martha Stewart Living.
"Macy's made a huge investment and took a huge risk in investing in Martha Stewart when it did," Mr. Grossman said.
JC Penney will abide by the preliminary injunction issued last month and won't sell Martha Stewart-branded products in the exclusive product categories, said Mark Epstein, a lawyer for the Texas retailer with Munger Tolles & Olson.
"We're not going to take a design from Macy's , sand off the mark and knock it off," Mr. Epstein said.
The judge said it was a "little frustrating" that the three companies -- which he called "part of the fabric of this country" -- can't sit down and work out their issues.
"To have them go into this nasty fight right now is not a good thing for the economy," Mr. Oing said.