By Karen Freifeld
NEW YORK, March 7 J.C. Penney agreed on
Thursday to hold off on its plan to sell certain Martha
Stewart-designed products in its stores at least until an April
8 court date.
Macy's, which claims the exclusive rights to sell the
products, has sued J.C. Penney and Martha Stewart Living
Omnimedia to prevent its rival from selling them.
Justice Jeffrey Oing of New York state Supreme Court on
Thursday adjourned a trial over the dispute until April because
of attorneys' scheduling conflicts, and ordered the companies to
try to resolve their differences in the meantime.
The adjournment is a blow to J.C. Penney, which has said
Martha Stewart is key to its turnaround plan and the products
had already been manufactured.
A spokeswoman for J.C. Penney declined to comment on
"Macy's, of course, will comply with the court's orders,"
said Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman for Macy's.
MSLO said Martha Stewart, who testified in court on Tuesday,
held a "productive conversation" with Macy's Chief Executive
Terry Lundgren before the judge ordered the companies into
mediation. "We view today's actions as a positive step forward,"
MSLO said in a statement. Asked about the conversation,
Sluzewski said Macy's had no comment.
Last week, Lundgren testified that he had not spoken to
Martha Stewart since she called in December 2011 to tell him
about her deal with J.C. Penney, the night before it was
announced publicly. He said he felt "sick" to his stomach and
hung up the phone on Stewart.
In testimony on Thursday, Charles Koppelman, who stepped
down as chairman of MSLO last year, said the company should have
given Macy's the chance to match J.C. Penney's offer, but he
said he was rebuffed by Martha Stewart and the board.
Last summer, Oing put in place a temporary block that
stopped J.C. Penney from selling Martha Stewart-branded home
goods in product categories Macy's claims it has exclusively,
including cookware, bedding and bath.
J.C. Penney then said it would sell Martha Stewart-designed
items in those categories under the brand "JCP Everyday"
starting this spring.
Earlier this week, as the trial dragged on, Macy's lawyer
Theodore Grossman asked the judge to consider expanding the
block to include all Martha-Stewart designed goods in the
exclusive product categories.
Under Thursday's agreement, J.C. Penney will hold off on
selling the products until the April court date.
The agreement does not impact J.C. Penney's plans to sell
Martha Stewart-branded window coverings and other product
categories not claimed by Macy's. Those products are expected in
J.C. Penney stores in late March or early April.