A federal court in Florida has dismissed a duty-free store’s claims against the Estée Lauder Companies, Inc. (ElC) for failure to state a valid claim, dismissing two of the three claims with prejudice and allowing the third to be amended. Duty Free Americas, Inc. v. The Estée Lauder Cos., Inc., no. 12-60741 (U.S. Dist. Ct., S. Fla., decided March 31, 2014). Duty Free Americas, inc. (DFA) alleged that elC had acted inappropriately in its dealings with DFA and in association with several of DFA’s proposals for business with various airports.
ELC and DFA had a business relationship until 2008, when ElC increased its prices for travel retail stores and DFA stopped buying ElC products to stock in its duty-free stores in airports. DFA alleged that following the end of that relationship, ElC interfered in DFA’s proposals to four airports to establish duty-free stores in their international terminals. the court disagreed, dismissing each of DFA’s attempted-monopolization, tortious-interference and false advertising claims against ElC.
the court first assessed DFA’s attempted-monopolization claim. DFA argued that elC had engaged in anticompetitive conduct because ElC had refused to do business with DFA, ElC had submitted false information to airport authorities about DFA, and elC had required stringent conditions for the sale and display of its products when DFA and elC had a business relationship. the court disagreed, finding no legal basis for the first assertion, no factual basis for the second and no standing for the third. refusing to impute to ElC any statements to the airports by third-party DFA competitors, the court also dismissed the tortious-interference claim. Because both claims appeared in the original and amended complaints and had undergone extensive discovery, they were dismissed with prejudice.
DFA also alleged that elC contributed to false advertising by DFA’s competi- tors. after DFA submitted proposals to two airports, its competitors expressed doubts to the airports about the accuracy of DFA’s projected sales based on ElC’s confirmation to those companies that DFA was not authorized to sell ElC products in its stores. the court dismissed this claim as well, finding that each statement was opinion rather than a factual assertion and thus did not constitute false advertising under the lanham act. as this claim first appeared in DFA’s amended complaint, the court dismissed the claim without prejudice.