Rival Brand Demands Court Halt Figs False Marketing Claims in Court Papers

A federal judge in Los Angeles has been asked in court papers to force medical apparel maker Figs to halt making marketing claims that its scrubs are antimicrobial and that they kill 66% of hospital-acquired infections, according to a news report carried in Women’s Wear Daily.

Rival scrubs maker Strategic Partners, doing business as Careismatic Brands, claims in its court papers that the marketing claims are false, WWD reported.

Strategic also claimed in its filing a third marketing effort by Figs, that it donates a pair of scrubs to health-care providers in need for every pair sold, was not true, according to WWD. Figs “does not and never did” donate a pair of scrubs for every set sold to health-care providers in need, although it claims on its web site to do so through a number of organizations, the court filing says, according to the WWD report.

“None of these claims are true or approved,” Strategic wrote in its motion, WWD reported. “Worse, Figs knows that it has no scientific testing to support its false claims, and that, therefore, these statements violate regulatory guidelines that other industry participants follow.”

“Figs has profited off of unsuspecting consumers who have been and continue to be deceived into believing that Figs scrubs possess special qualities,” Strategic’s filing went on, WWD reported. “This court must put an end to Figs’ false health claims that have been repeated in advertisements, hang tags, press releases, interviews, blogs, social media posts, e-mails, web sites, in broadcasts and more, and Figs’ ongoing efforts to conceal the truth about its scrubs from its consumers.”

The company further claims in its court filing that, despite an expectation that cofounders and co-chief executive officers Trina Spear and Heather Hasson are set to be replaced in their leadership roles, “that does nothing to remedy the harm already caused by its false claims,” WWD reported.

Strategic, WWD reported, is asking in its court filing that Figs be required to make “corrective disclosures” around all of its allegedly false and misleading marketing by way of statements to its web site, press releases and direct e-mails.

A representative of Figstold WWD that the allegations “outrageous falsehoods” and dubbed the idea that the CEOs were set to be replaced a “fabricated claim.” “We will be asking the court to impose sanctions against SPI and its counsel for this frivolous filing,” the spokesperson told WWD. “[Strategic] has a history of engaging in such improper tactics against competitors to compensate for its own operational shortcomings.”

The spokesperson also told WWD that the allegations in the court filing are “absurd” and “part of a malicious campaign by a competitor to harm Figs by misleading the public.” “We will prove in court that this was done for the improper purpose of both harming and harassing FIGS.”

Strategic and Figs are direct rivals in the medical apparel space, worth an estimated $10 billion, and the basis of the lawsuit is that Figs positioning its products and scrubs as scientifically superior, allegedly without scientific testing to back up those claims, has unfairly hurt Strategic’s business, WWD reported, citing the court filing. The company also claims in its filing that Figs cofounder and co-CEO Spear took confidential information about Strategic’s business while she was working on a financing deal for the company during her time at Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, and used it to launch Figs with Hasson.

As for the marketing claims, Strategic argued in its papers, according to WWD, that “Figs has no medical research studies, independent lab studies, or scientific data to support its claims regarding the health and safety of its scrubs.” Figs allegedly has not gotten clearance from the Food and Drug Administration for its marketing of its scrubs’ effectiveness, nor from the Environmental Protection Agency, which purportedly requires anything dubbed “antimicrobial” to be registered with the agency, its court papers state, according to WWD.

Figs’s scrubs include a chemical called Silvadur, which maker DuPont says offers “antimicrobial technology” for apparel and textiles, according to the court filing, WWD reported. But Strategic said in its court papers that it put Figs scrubs through tests at a materials analysis lab, Microtrace, and found that the “antimicrobial coating on rayon fibers made up only 21 percent of the fabric composition of Figs scrubs, insufficient to offer any effective antimicrobial protection,” WWD reported.

It tested for other claims as well, like the scrubs’ ability to kill bacteria or repel liquids, which Strategic alleged in its filing were false, according to the report. Strategic told the court in its filing thatFigs has so far produced no documents during discovery, when parties in a lawsuit exchange requested information, to combat any of its findings or support its marketing claims, WWD reported.

As for Figs’ public claims that it donates a pair of scrubs for every set sold, Strategic claimed the company “produced no documents in discovery accounting for donations made through its [Threads for Threads] program,” according to WWD. All of these claims, according to Strategic’s court papers, have given Figs “undeserved momentum and favorable press” since its founding in 2013, WWD reported. Indeed, the brand has been widely dubbed a “disruptor” in the medical apparel space, due in large part to its direct-to-consumer model, but also its focus on better-quality scrubs that cost more, WWD said. And it’s grown fast.

The company said in 2018 it had 500,000 customers buying up to a dozen pairs of scrubs a year and it has raised $75 million in funding, $65 million of that coming in 2018 in a Series B round, according to the report. Now, according to a story last month in The New York Post, it’s gearing up for an initial public offering in early 2021 with an estimated valuation of up to $4 billion, WWD said.