Mikimoto -- the well known jeweler that pioneered the production of cultured pearls -- sells pearls that it says are "the most luminous of all."  Mikimoto also says its pearls have the "highest quality and luster."  And if you're still not convinced, the company explains that it sells "the finest pearls that meet the strictest standards."  Are these statements actually advertising claims that require substantiation?  That was the issue in a recent lawsuit brought in federal court in New York. 

In order to state a claim for false advertising under New York law, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the advertising is "likely to mislead a reasonable consumer acting reasonably under the circumstances."  It's not enough that advertising might "conceivably be misunderstood by some few customers."  Rather, the plaintiff must ultimately show that "a significant portion of the general consuming public or of targeted customers, acting reasonably in the circumstances, could be misled." 

Here, Mikimoto moved to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff had failed to state a claim because statements in advertising like "the finest," "the most luminous of all," and "the highest quality" are non-actionable puffery.  And the court agreed.  

What is puffery, exactly?  The court described puffery as "generalized or exaggerated statements which a reasonable consumer would not interpret as a factual claim upon which [the consumer] could rely."  In other words, statements that are puffery are representations that can't be proven or disproven.  They're generally hyperbolic statements of opinion that consumers aren't going to rely on when making a purchasing decision.  Advertising that something is the "best" or the "finest" is classic puffery. 

Interestingly, the court also held that Mikimoto's claim that it complies with the "strictest standards" was puffery as well, because the company never identified what requirements or standards the company is talking about.  It's a good decision for the advertiser, though I'm not sure another court might not have wanted to learn more about what consumers' reasonable takeaway was here, in light of the specific product attributes being promoted and what standards might be applicable to the pearl industry.  

Lee v. Mikimoto, 2023 WL 2711825 (S.D.N.Y. 2023).