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Revelations Perfume & Cosmetics, Inc. v. Prince Rogers Nelson: Case Analysis

case brief, case summary

Revelations Perfume & Cosmetics, Inc. v. Prince Rogers Nelson, 2012 NY Slip Op 50721(U)

(https://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/other-courts/2012/2012-ny-slip-op-50721-u.html)

Parties

Revelation Perfume & Cosmetics, Plaintiff

Prince Nelson Rogers, Defendant 

Facts

Prince (full name Prince Rogers Nelson) released a new album named 3121 in 2006. He also developed 3121 Eau de perfume for the Revelations Perfume and Cosmetics firm. Prince agreed to utilize his name, likeness, and a new album to help sell the perfume as part of the deal between Prince and Revelations.

Revelations sued Prince in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan in November 2008, citing breach of contract. The perfume business specifically argued that the singer’s commitment to market the perfume was false and that he therefore fraudulently persuaded the corporation to enter into the contract.

According to evidence, Revelations decided to design and manufacture the 3121-perfume based on Prince’s claims and pledges to promote the product. An expert also testified about the significance of a celebrity promoting their perfume for the success of the scent. Prince initially declined to give interviews during the perfume’s launch party, as well as to offer pictures for new releases or marketing materials. As the perfume was being created, he continued to send conflicting signals about his desire to market it.

Revelations were repeatedly assured by Prince’s agents of Prince’s intention to promote the perfume. However, the artist claimed in January 2007 that he did not want his name on the box or the product itself. Prince had pledged to promote the fragrance on the Oprah Winfrey Show as well as on his 3121-concert tour.

However, he never appeared on Oprah, and his tour was eventually cancelled. Revelations continued to develop the scent and never ceased attempting to get Prince engaged in the product’s sales campaign based on repeated assurances that Prince would collaborate.

Issue

Was there a Breach of Contract?

Judgment

Concerning Revelations’ out-of-pocket expenses, the Special Referee determined that Revelations relied on the Prince Defendants’ representations and promises in its decision to develop and market the 3121 fragrance and that the Prince Defendants’ fraudulent inducement, fraud, and tortious interference caused Revelations to suffer financial losses.

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The Special Referee accepted Larry Couey’s testimony, one of the Revelations’ founders and senior managers, who told the jury that Revelations depended on the Prince Defendants’ multiple misrepresentations about Prince’s commitment to promoting the 3121 fragrances, beginning with the parties’ first meeting in August 2006 and continuing throughout the parties’ relationship.

The record also strongly supported the Special Referee’s conclusion that the Prince Defendants’ fraudulent inducement, deception, and tortious interference were the direct cause of Revelations’ out-of-pocket expenditures in creating and promoting the fragrance.

The Defendants for Prince claimed that the judgment of out-of-pocket costs should be denied because Revelations did not base its decision to create and sell the fragrance on Prince’s statements, and so the Special Referee’s conclusion of proximate cause was not supported by the facts.

They contended that Revelations could not have depended on the Prince Defendants’ August 2006 representations because Couey testified that he would not have executed the License Agreement with defendant Universal Music Publishing Group on December 1, 2006, unless Prince signed the Inducement Letter concurrently.

However, this was not the same as admitting that Couey did not rely on any representation Prince made prior to completing the License Agreement or that Couey relied only on the Inducement Letter to the exclusion of the Prince Defendants’ August 2006 statements.

Second, the Prince Defendants contended that the judgment of out-of-pocket expenses spent after December 2, 2006, should be dismissed because, on that day, Prince told Revelations that he would not conduct interviews for the launch party and would not furnish a single image for the press release.

Consequently, the Prince Defendants argued that as of December 2, 2006, the day after the License Agreement and Inducement Letter was signed, Revelations was aware that Prince’s prior promises to promote the fragrance were false, and that it could not have relied on these representations in its decision to incur millions of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses to develop and market the fragrance.

However, the Prince Defendants’ deception was not completely realized on December 2, 2006, and the Prince Defendants continued to send Revelations conflicting signals regarding Prince’s intention to market the fragrance. For example, it wasn’t until January 2007, when Couey visited with Prince again, that Prince told him he didn’t want his name on the fragrance bottle or anywhere else.

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Revelations never gave up attempting to persuade Prince to reconsider his mind based on the repeated misrepresentations by the Prince Defendants and the assurances of defendant UPMG. Couey, for example, was aware that Revelations might place Prince’s image on the box at the last minute. Couey also thought that the personal appearances and marketing Prince promised as part of his tour, including an appearance on Oprah, would have made up for any flaws in the bottle or packaging. Based on this evidence, the Special Referee correctly found that the Prince Defendants’ deception was “continuous, not limited to a single event in August 2006.”

Thirdly, the Prince Defendants claim that the theory of avoidable consequences prevents them from recovering their out-of-pocket expenses for Revelations. The Prince Defendants contend that Prince’s tortious behaviour was obvious no later than December 2, 2006, at which point Revelations should have declined to continue the connection. Second, the Prince Defendants contended that the judgment of out-of-pocket expenses spent after December 2, 2006, should be dismissed because, on that day, Prince told Revelations that he would not conduct interviews for the launch party and would not furnish a single image for the press release.

Consequently, the Prince Defendants argued that as of December 2, 2006, the day after the License Agreement and Inducement Letter was signed, Revelations was aware that Prince’s prior promises to promote the fragrance were false, and that it could not have relied on these representations in its decision to incur millions of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses to develop and market the fragrance. However, the Prince Defendants’ deception was not completely realized on December 2, 2006, and the Prince Defendants continued to send Revelations conflicting signals regarding Prince’s intention to market the fragrance.

For example, it wasn’t until January 2007, when Couey visited with Prince again, that Prince told him he didn’t want his name on the fragrance bottle or anywhere else. Revelations never gave up attempting to persuade Prince to reconsider his mind based on the repeated misrepresentations by the Prince Defendants and the assurances of defendant UPMG. Couey, for example, was aware that Revelations might place Prince’s image on the box at the last minute.

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Couey also thought that the personal appearances and marketing Prince promised as part of his tour, including an appearance on Oprah, would have made up for any flaws in the bottle or packaging. Based on this evidence, the Special Referee correctly found that the Prince Defendants’ deception was “continuous, not limited to a single event in August 2006.” Thirdly, the Prince Defendants claim that the theory of avoidable consequences prevents them from recovering their out-of-pocket expenses for Revelations.

The Prince Defendants contend that Prince’s tortious behaviour was obvious no later than December 2, 2006, at which point Revelations should have declined to continue the connection. Finally, the Prince Defendants contended that Revelations is not entitled to its out-of-pocket expenses because it did not exhaust all of the remedies set out in the License Agreement and the Inducement Letter.

The Prince Defendants, in particular, contended that the Inducement Letter authorized Revelations to include Prince as a party to the License Agreement, making Prince liable for anything that is repeated.

Referee Crespo determined that the evidence of the plaintiff’s expert witness Wayne Hoeberlein was not trustworthy since it was based on papers and assumptions created by Revelations without any independent study or investigation establishing the truth or reasonableness of this material.

Plaintiff contended that Referee Crespo overlooked the most important evidence of Hoeberlein’s credibility, which was the fragrance’s actual sales success in the months after its launch. However, Revelations cannot forecast sales of the 3121 fragrance, as well as two additional scents that were never released, based on such a short period of new product sales. Revelations claimed restitution for out-of-pocket expenses, lost profits, and punitive penalties.

On January 18, 2011, a New York court ordered Prince to pay the perfume firm $3,948,798 in out-of-pocket losses. The court dismissed any judgment of lost profits or punitive damages, concluding that Prince acted without malice.

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