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16 August 2018Americas

Addiction facility hits out at ‘misleading’ websites in TM suit

An addiction treatment facility has accused another organisation of exploiting vulnerable individuals by providing misleading information containing trademarked names on its websites.

On Tuesday, August 14, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation filed its trademark complaint against Freedom Healthcare of America (FHA) at the US District Court for the District of Minnesota.

Hazelden is drug and alcohol addiction treatment centre, with 17 centres across the US, the suit said. The foundation was created in 2014, when Minnesota-based Hazelden Foundation merged with California’s Betty Ford Center.

Hazelden was founded in 1949, and the Betty Ford Center was co-founded in 1982 by former US First Lady Betty Ford.

Opiate drug addiction is an urgent public health crisis, Hazelden said, and drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. As such there is a “critical public interest” in preventing fraudulent or misleading statements directed to vulnerable customers, Hazelden added.

The foundation owns several trademark registrations, including US registration number 3,497,294 for a stylised version of ‘Hazelden’ for services including addiction treatment.

According to the lawsuit, FHA is exploiting “vulnerable Minnesotans” seeking treatment programmes through the websites,, and

For example, purports to provide admission and referral information for drug addiction treatment centres as well as free phone calls with treatment specialists.

FHA’s sites contain “misleading” web pages which contain information on Hazelden’s treatment centres, alongside contact forms and “prominently placed phone numbers” that consumers are invited to call for assessment phone calls, Hazelden claimed.

The suit claimed that FHA is using Hazelden’s name and trademark in close proximity to phone numbers, which are not affiliated with Hazelden, in a manner which is “literally false, or at least misleading”.

Hazelden said it has not given FHA permission to use its IP, but the websites are using a “nearly identical” stylised mark in connection with related services such as information related to addiction treatment centres.

This is likely to cause confusion as to the origin of FHA’s commercial activities, Hazelden claimed.

Hazelden asked the court for an injunction and triple damages, in addition to costs and attorneys’ fees for trademark infringement, unfair competition, consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices, and false advertising.

The foundation also wants the court to order FHA to remove all web content relating to Hazelden.

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