After Getting Slapped Down Over Implied Alfonso Ribeiro Endorsement, Roca Labs Tries With Tommy Chong

from the is-it-real? dept

The Roca Labs saga continues. As you may recall, the company is suing PissedConsumer and a former customer while threatening lawsuits against many others (including us). Part of the issue is that it makes customers agree never to say anything negative about the company in exchange for a “discount.”

There was a somewhat odd side story a week and a half ago, in which Roca tried to use a statement it had posted to PissedConsumer (and to its own website) about actor Alfonso Ribeiro in what was clearly implied to be an endorsement. Except that Ribeiro’s lawyers stepped in and made it clear Ribeiro had never endorsed the product and they demanded that all such uses be taken down. As his lawyers noted:

Ribeiro unequivocally is not, has never been and has no intention of ever becoming a paid spokesperson of the Product [Roca Labs]. Furthermore, Ribeiro has never personally used the Product and in no manner whatsoever endorses the Product.

The unauthorized Review and deceitful use of Ribeiro’s name, image, likeness and falsely attributed quotes violates California Civil Code Section 3344, invades Ribeiro’s common law rights of privacy and publicity, amounts to unfair competition, is an unfair business practices, and constitutes copyright infringement, among other causes of action.

As I said at the time, I’m not sure the unfair competition or copyright infringement claims would fly, but a falsely implied endorsement is exactly what publicity rights laws were designed to deal with. Pretty quickly, the page about Ribeiro disappeared from Roca’s site.

One of our readers, jonr pointed out that it appears the photos of Ribeiro actually came from a Dancing With the Stars “backstage gifting suite” in which the participants in the show are photographed with various sponsor products. Given the smackdown from Ribeiro’s lawyers, you might think that Roca would be careful about still using his image in any sort of implied endorsement. And yet, Roca has put up an entire page with photographs from the event and what appears to be implied endorsements. The page says “the stars are impressed with Roca Labs.” And the first star at the top of the page is Ribeiro, which is interesting, given his lawyers earlier claims.

There’s also some photos with Tommy Chong. And just a little while ago, Roca Labs posted on Facebook what certainly looks like yet another implied endorsement from Tommy Chong. Sure, it doesn’t directly say he endorses it. It just says “Tommy Chong holds the Roca Labs” products, but that would appear to imply an endorsement.

I contacted Tommy Chong’s manager and agent to see if this was an approved use of his image and name, given the previous issues with Ribeiro. His manager, Paris Chong, quickly informed me that, no, Tommy Chong has not signed any kind of endorsement deal with Roca Labs. It seems likely that Roca would say that it never implied any actual endorsement — hence the claim that he’s merely “holding” the product. But using an image like that in a manner that implies endorsement to your average reader might face difficulty under various publicity rights laws that, again, are specifically designed for situations exactly like this one.

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Companies: roca labs

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Comments on “After Getting Slapped Down Over Implied Alfonso Ribeiro Endorsement, Roca Labs Tries With Tommy Chong”

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20 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Tommy Chong's disgraceful railroading

Tommy Chong is one person who must be painfully aware of the repercussions of having one’s image used as an implied endorsement. He went to jail for it.

Although he had nothing to do with his adult son’s business, Chong’s Bongs, Tommy still got roped in, as his (family) name, and apparently some pictures of him, appeared on his son’s website.

Maybe this was the DEA’s long-awaited revenge for Tommy Chong’s embrace of the drug culture and his mocking of law enforcement’s “war on drugs” but looking at the facts in the case, he never broke any laws and should have never gone to jail. He only agreed to a plea bargain to have charges dropped against his son, a deal which made prosecutors happy because a celebrity like Tommy Chong was the big fish they could mount on their wall.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Tommy Chong's disgraceful railroading

IIRC, based on the documentary I saw about his ordeal, the “sting” operation was that a persistent law enforcement individual convinced them to send a shipment of their products to Pennsylvania (I think), where it was illegal to sell such paraphernalia, allowing law enforcement to press criminal charges against them. I seem to recall that they denied selling them several times and finally gave in, which was clearly a misstep on their part.

Whether such a crime is punishable by a prison sentence is another discussion – and I believe you are correct that they used this case as an example with a high profile target. In the grand scheme of things, I suspect it only backfired on law enforcement… very few people think Tommy should have gone to prison for this “crime”, and those who did are mostly right wing crazy assholes.

steell (profile) says:

Disclaimer II

The following is at the bottom of the referenced Roca page. May be new?

Roca Labs® is not endorsed by Dancing With The Stars, ABC, BBC, or the Disney Co.or the individuals contestants, judges or performers appearing on Dancing With The Stars. Dancing With The Stars, ABC, BBC, and Disney are all registered trademarks of their respective owners. All trademarks on this web site whether registered or not, are the property of their respective owners. Dancers and celebrities on Dancing with the Stars had a special opportunity to meet with successful users of Roca Labs’ Gastric Bypass NO Surgery® who lost 100 lb on average. The dancers and stars were amazed with the weight loss results, but are not in any way official endorsers of Roca Labs®. Images are courtesy of ABC and the Disney Company. Images should not imply product endorsement or use of Roca Labs products by celebrities pictured in images. *Results are not typical. Results can and will vary.

scote (profile) says:

Re: Disclaimer II

Results are not typical. Results can and will vary.”

Didn’t the FTC crack down on that and prohibit weight loss companies from using testimonials of atypical users to falsely suggest efficacy? I mean, I’m *sure that Roca Labs would never think of deliberately flaunting rules, so I’m sure they’ll fix their marketing ASAP.

dkone says:

Layers of BS

What gets me is that Dancing with the ‘Stars’ can sell its ‘good’ name to any company without regard to the merit of the product. Part of the sale to the company is that the ‘Stars’ will pose with their product. Of course the companies are going to use these as publicity photos. So not that I agree with Roca Labs practices, but I disagree less with these ‘Stars’ that smile and pose with a product then bitch about later… you know what, don’t hold the fucking thing in the first place. It is not like they accidentally picked it up, they know the deal about why they are there that day. I would even bet they get a cut of the pie.

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