Branding Firm Appeals to Ellen in JC Penney Dustup

Hudson & Broad, Suing Retailer, Releases Video Aimed at Spokeswoman

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JC Penney's fair-and-square mantra doesn't extend to its vendors, according to a disgruntled branding firm.

Hudson & Broad, a New York-based visual merchandising and branding firm, is suing the retailer for $40 million, alleging "breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets." But, not content to let the disagreement play out in court, Hudson & Broad is appealing to JC Penney's famous spokeswoman, Ellen DeGeneres.

In a video posted on YouTube, Hudson & Broad President James Maharg asks for Ms. DeGeneres' support. (The video boasted 132 views as of this afternoon.)

"I think you should be aware that we filed a lawsuit against JC Penney," Mr. Maharg says in the video. "Hudson & Broad designed and engineered the iconic fair-and-square fixture. Then JC Penney misappropriated it and gave it to another vendor to knock off."

Mr. Maharg goes on to ask that Ms. DeGeneres act as a sort of intermediary between the firm and JC Penney's CEO. "I'm asking you to ask Ron Johnson, 'The way JC Penney treated Hudson & Broad -- is that fair and square?' "

The firm claims it had been tasked with creating an exclusive fixture that could change colors to match the retailer's color of the month. It developed an oversized LED square frame that can be changed with a remote control. The fixtures have been rolled out in select stores and were highlighted at JC Penney's investor presentation earlier this year.

Hudson & Broad says it was to deliver more than 1,800 units to be installed in 700 stores but that last month, JC Penney's procurement department notified the firm that the fixture had been sourced elsewhere.

A JC Penney spokeswoman declined to comment on pending litigation.

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