Jay-Z emerged from his legal battle with Parlux Fragrances unscathed on Wednesday. The perfume company had accused him of shirking contractual obligations to promote Gold Jay-Z cologne; the rapper had subsequently countersued. The jury ruled that neither party had successfully argued their case, and awarded no money to either side.
In a statement, Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, said, “I’d like to express my gratitude to the jury, especially during these difficult times.”
In an email, Pat Werblin, vice president of advertising, digital marketing and public relations for Parlux, wrote that the company “believes it presented a strong case and is disappointed that the jury rendered a verdict today finding that neither side proved breach by the other.” While Werblin emphasized that “the jury awarded no damages… either on Parlux’s claims or on Jay Z’s counterclaims,” he added that “Parlux plans to pursue all legal options available to it.”
The perfume company filed a breach of contract suit against Carter back in 2016, claiming he had earned $2 million in royalties but that Parlux had lost many millions more in the cologne collaboration. The company alleged that this was partially because Jay-Z had failed to make a series of appearances to peddle his perfume on Good Morning America and in Women’s Wear Daily.
In a lengthy closing argument delivered this week, Carter’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, told the jury that the whole case was “a big misunderstanding,” according to court transcripts. (He also told the jury that one character in the saga “was the straw that stirred the margarita drink.”) “Why on Earth would Jay-Z put his name on one product and only one product in his entire career and want that product to fail?” Spiro asked.
The defense lawyer noted that the contract required Carter to make a “reasonable” effort when it came to promoting the perfume, and the rapper is a very busy man. “I mean, are they going to suggest that he has to show up on Christmas morning?” Spiro wondered. “Are they going to suggest that he gives up his career as a musician and artist [to do promotions]?”
In his closing statement, one of Parlux’s attorneys, Anthony Viola, returned to the contractual minutiae underpinning in the case. The defense “want[s] you to focus on sideshow issues, sideshow issues that are irrelevant and a waste of time, because the defendants know that they do not have real defenses to the real claims in this case,” he argued.
“When [Carter] signed this contract, he had no idea that he personally had obligations under this contract,” Viola continued. “When he found out that he did have obligations, he decided that he would ignore them. And again, you heard that straight from Jay-Z himself on that witness stand… Parlux ended up with a celebrity fragrance line where the celebrity was missing in action.”
Considering that this initially seemed to be a dry dispute over a contract, the suit actually became relatively dramatic. Carter’s legal team hired an ex-cop to shadow a Parlux executive who claimed he was unable to testify in court. In addition to that cloak-and-dagger incident, the rapper made a rare appearance in court last month to testify in the lawsuit.
On the stand, Carter sparred repeatedly with Viola. Traditionally attorneys ask questions in court, but the rapper repeatedly turned that dynamic on its head, quizzing Viola — “I had a year to complete these [obligations], correct?” — and responding to every lawyer jab with a counter-jab of his own.
“It doesn’t make any sense to launch [the perfume] at Barclays,” Viola said at one point. “You can’t speak to what makes sense,” Carter told him.
On the second day of his testimony, Carter amped up his offense, repeatedly referring to Viola’s questions as “lawyer tricks.” He also made it seem as if Parlux was one of many entities that were trying to take advantage of him. “These sort of shakedowns happen all the time,” Carter told the court.