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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Apple’s Marketing Statements are Non-Actionable Puffery

Plaintiff Alan Vitt’s laptop "crapped out" (term of art) just after the 1-year warranty expired.  The crux of his complaint on behalf of all purchasers of the iBook G4: the laptop did not last “at least a couple of years,” which he allaged is the reasonable consumer expectation of a laptop.  He alleged that “this is because one of the solder joints on the logic board of the iBook G4 degrades slightly each time the computer is turned on and off, eventually causing the joint to break and the computer to stop working shortly after Apple’s one year express warranty has expired.”  Plaintiff further alleged that Apple “affirmatively misrepresented the durability, portability, and quality of the iBook G4 and did not disclose the alleged defect.”

In affirming the dismissal of his complaint, the 9th Circuit held that the marketing statements are non-actionable puffery:

Vitt challenges Apple’s advertising because it stated that the iBook G4 is “mobile,” “durable,” “portable,” “rugged,” “built to withstand reasonable shock,” “reliable,” “high performance,” “high value,” an “affordable choice,” and an “ideal student laptop.” The district court held that these statements are generalized, non-actionable puffery because they are “inherently vague and generalized terms” and “not factual representations that a given standard has been met.” We agree. Even when viewed in the advertising context as Vitt urges, these statements do not claim or imply that the iBook G4’s useful life will extend for “at least a couple of years.” For example, to the extent that “durable” is a statement of fact it may imply in context that the iBook G4 is resistant to problems occurring because of its being dropped, but not that it will last for a duration beyond its expressed warranty.

Vitt v. Apple Computer, Inc. (9th Cir. Dec. 21, 2011).

[Meredith R. Miller]

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