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QVC-Cartier Settlement Isn’t Binding, Judge Says

(CN) - A settlement that purportedly put to rest claims that home shopping network QVC promoted a knock-off Cartier watch was not binding, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled.

The French jeweler sought to have QVC and watchmaker TWI bound to an oral agreement that was laid out by a magistrate judge, but lost its claim because "the parties never reached an actual agreement regarding the settlement," U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein ruled.

Cartier had accused QVC and TWI of stealing the design of the "Santos de Cartier" and selling the competing watches on television.

The claims were purportedly settled in June, with Magistrate Judge Frank Mass recording the terms. He said the amount of the settlement would be confidential.

A week later, Cartier proposed an agreement that "contained several terms that were not set forth on the record at the [settlement conference]," Judge Stein wrote.

"For example, Cartier inserted a clause that stated in the event of any breach of the agreement or violation of the judgment it would be awarded attorneys' fees."

The agreement drafted by Cartier incorporated several other changes to the magistrate's guidelines, including a "merger clause," causing QVC to balk. It claimed the settlement was not binding, because many of the contract's terms were disputed.

Judge Stein agreed, citing the multiple drafts Cartier submitted as evidence that a final agreement had not yet been reached.

"The absence of any genuine meeting of the minds is reflected in the actions of the parties after the June 5 settlement conference," he wrote. "After the very same conference where Cartier alleges the settlement terms were finalized, the parties sent drafts of the settlement agreement and consent judgment back and forth in a sustained effort to in fact finalize the terms of the settlement.

"Moreover, Cartier submitted multiple drafts, including one after the second settlement conference was held on July 1, 2009," Stein added. "The various drafts are indicative that the parties were still negotiating."

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