Two Utah companies settle Oprah lawsuit
Oprah Winfrey has settled her lawsuit against two Utah companies that were accused of using her name without permission to promote nutritional drinks based on the açai berry.
Winfrey and Mehmet Oz, a medical doctor who appears frequently on her daytime talk show, sued 50 companies, including three from Utah, in August 2009 for using their names or images without permission to promote products for colon cleansing and to combat aging. The suit alleged that after Oz appeared several times on "Oprah" discussing health issues, the companies began to market products using their names as endorsements for the health benefits of the açai berry, which comes from Brazil.
Those companies included MonaVie of South Jordan, which has made a huge success of marketing a nutritional drink from the berry.
MonaVie was mistakenly included in the lawsuit filed in New York, according to company counsel Graden Jackson, and has now settled it. Several of the company's independent distributors had misused the image in their marketing efforts but not MonaVie, he said.
"We got in touch with those distributors and acted as intermediary to facilitate the resolution of concerns Ms. Winfrey and Dr. Oz had with them."
He said terms of the settlement would not be disclosed because of a confidentiality agreement. "It was a very amicable settlement," according to Jackson.
Marc Rachman, a New York attorney who represents Winfrey, Oz and their companies, confirmed the settlement and said Winfrey and Oz have reached agreements with a number of those it sued and hoped to settle with others.
"They are done, without admitting liability, but everyone is agreeing to some type of stipulation to not use Oprah and Dr. Oz's names, image and trademarks going forward," he said.
Another Utah company, 456 Health Systems of Spanish Fork, and a related entity, B67 Nutra Pure Systems, also settled.
Company representatives could not be reached for comment.
A third Utah company, Crush LLC of Sandy, remains a party to the lawsuit. Jason Brailow, a principal officer at Crush and its parent, TMP Nevada, did not return a message seeking comment that was left with a California attorney who represents Crush in a separate proposed class-action lawsuit against Crush.
Calls made to listed Crush phone numbers generated a recording that said they had been disconnected. But Rachman said he hoped to reach a settlement with Crush and other companies, though he warned the lawsuit would be pursued if there are no agreements.
Crush and TMP also are being sued by the Illinois Attorney General's Office for alleged violations of that state's consumer fraud and deceptive business practices act for actions related to Winfrey.