Thursday, December 29, 2011

iPad "just like a book" claim is puffery

Baltazar v. Apple Inc., 2011 WL 6747884 (N.D. Cal.)
Plaintiffs alleged breach of contract and violation of the UCL based on claims that Apple promised that the iPad could be used outdoors as an e-reader and mobile internet device, when in fact the iPad overheated when it was used outdoors even within the acceptable ambient temperature range, causing it to shut down until it cooled. The court granted Apple’s motion to dismiss the third amended complaint with prejudice. 
Apple ran a TV ad showing images of the iPad being used outdoors, at least some of the time on sunny days, and posted on its website a video showing scenes of the iPad being used outdoors and in the sun.  Plaintiffs also noted Apple’s website statement that “[r]eading the iPad is just like reading a book.” 
The court rejected the breach of contract claim, which was similar to a warranty-based claim.  The ads and specifications were insufficient to show that Apple ever claimed that the iPad would operate without interruption under the conditions identified by the plaintiffs.  The ad on which plaintiffs relied had seven brief scenes showing the iPad in outdoor locations, some on a “sunny day.”  But these were only a small fraction of the approximately 30 different scenes in the 30-second ad; they were fleeting depictions and none showed the iPad being used in direct sunlight or for an extended period outdoors.  “The overall impression of the commercial is not that the iPad was an outdoor product, but a mobile product. In fact, the iPad was not even turned on in some of the scenes, but was merely being moved about handily.” The scenes couldn’t be construed as a promise that the device will operate relentlessly outdoors in sunlight.
Neither did Apple’s web video help.  The video, clearly marked on Apple’s website as having been created by an iPad owner, included brief scenes of the iPad being used outdoors, including being affixed to the dashboard of a car and the gas tank of a motorcycle. (Eric Goldman is going to wonder where the §230 analysis is here.)  The Apple web page quoted the creator’s statement that, “This is an exploration of what is possible, not necessarily what is practical.” Apple also added a footnote, warning “Do not attempt.” Thus, plaintiffs failed to allege that any ad promised the particular performance to which plaintiffs claimed to be entitled.
Plaintiffs alleged that the iPad came with an express warranty against defects in materials or workmanship under normal use, which Apple itself defined to include operation in a place where the ambient temperature was between 32-95 °F. The court disagreed with plaintiffs' interpretation: there was no promise that the iPad would operate without interruption under all conditions within a specified ambient temperature range. “To use an obvious example, one could not conclude from the specifications that the iPad would be expected to operate in a rain or snow storm simply because it is designed to operate at certain ambient temperatures.”
The UCL claim also failed.  If an alleged misrepresentation wouldn’t deceive a reasonable consumer, a claim may be dismissed on the pleadings.  As with the contract claim, the court found, a reasonable consumer wouldn’t receive the message that the iPad would operate without interruption in the specific environmental conditions under which it allegedly tended to shut down.  The plaintiffs alleged that they relied on the Apple ad to conclude that the iPad would work “outdoors,” or “under the conditions in the advertisement,” but they alleged only that it failed to operate without interruption in a limited subset of outdoor conditions.  Also, the statement that the iPad could be used “just like a book” was mere puffery.  

1 comment:

Mac Harwood said...

From the Judge's statement on the 3rd ammended complaint: "Plaintiffs’ UCL claim fails because they did not show why a reasonable consumer would
be deceived by the allegedly misleading materials"

Surely if the plaintiff had done a survey, showing consumers the Apple ad with users enjoying their iPad outside and then done a survey - they'd have the evidence they'd need?

eg: "From the advertisement, check which places you believe the iPad can be used in:
( ) Inside in the Dark
( ) Outside in the shade
( ) Outside in direct sunlight
( ) Underwater
( ) In the shower
... etc"

From the advertisement I would have 100% ticked 'Outside in direct sunlight' .. I'm a fairly reasonable consumer and I came away with a misleading impression.

This was their 3rd attempt at a pleading ... were they barred from using survey evidence .. or are there complications?

I used this as my reference:

Anyway, thanks for the interesting case.