Peloton’s innovation claims were puffery, but music ads were a problem

Peloton
Interactive, Inc. v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc., 2021 WL 2188219, No.
20-662-RGA (D. Del. May 28, 2021)

The
parties “compete in the at-home fitness market and offer products that allow
consumers to attend live and on-demand fitness classes from home.” They’re
fighting over cross-allegations of patent infringement, violation of state
deceptive trade practices acts, and violations of the Lanham Act. I’m only
addressing ICON’s counterclaims for false advertising, not the patent part of
the ruling.

ICON
counterclaimed that Peloton has made false claims in advertisements regarding
its status as an innovator and as a tech company, e.g., that it was a “very
hardcore technology company. We make a tablet computer better than apple … We
are as hardcore of a tech shop as anything in NYC right now.” Peloton also
stated that was Bike is the “first of its kind.” ICON said this was false
advertising, particularly because Peloton licensed the relevant technology from
ICON. “Innovator” and “hardcore technology company” were non-actionable puffery.
So was “first of its kind,” apparently for vagueness/bluster reasons.

ICON
also challenged statements by Peloton’s CEO implying that Peloton has no
competitors, such as “Nobody else provides them, so we’re kind of a category of
one.” These too were broad, generalized claims of superiority without any
reference to a specific product or characteristic.

Finally,
ICON alleged that Peloton engaged in a misleading, bait and switch advertising
scheme with respect to the availability of music on its platform. Though none
of the cited ads referenced any artist or song in particular, the court
understood ICON to be alleging “that the playlists linked in the Instagram
posts contained music that Peloton lacked a license to or soon removed from its
platform.” Peloton rejoined that its challenged Instagram posts “advertise only
the availability of Peloton’s playlist feature.” 
These
claims did survive. “Telling consumers that they can ‘find the perfect tunes
for [their] on demand ride[s]’ and ‘see the artists and songs powering your
on-demand rides’ and linking to specific playlists reasonably suggests that the
songs contained in the playlists are available on Peloton’s platform.”

State-law
claims were treated similarly.

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