It’s like a love triangle and Martha Stewart is the woman in the middle. Well-known department stores Macy’s and J.C. Penney, Co. are fighting over who has rights to the popular Martha Stewart Living brand. And during a week of bad news for Penney, a judge’s recent ruling might add a little light to an otherwise dark situation.

Those who frequent Macy’s have likely seen the various Martha Stewart Living products on the shelves, from bedding to dishes to décor and more. Penney wants in on some of the retail action that the domestic diva’s name brings in, but Macy’s isn’t going to share her without a fight.

Macy’s argues that Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has an exclusive agreement with the store; putting its products in Penney boutiques, therefore, would be a breach of contract. Yesterday, a judge ruled that no contract violation occurred, supporting Penney’s hope that it will someday see Martha Stewart Living boutiques in its stores.

Of course, the survival of Penney isn’t guaranteed, a point that’s been made clear this week with the loss of its CEO Ron Johnson. Despite recent attempts to reinvigorate the store and its brand, sales for Penney have significantly declined in the past year. Perhaps it was Johnson’s hope that the addition of the Martha Stewart Living boutiques would bring some life back to the Penney brand.

The lawsuits between Macy’s, Penney and Martha Stewart Living are not over. Macy’s has more it wants to prove and will continue to try to do so in court, maybe even through an appeal.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “On Disclosing Macy’s Pact, Judge Finds for Stewart,” Chad Bray, April 10, 2013

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