Yet Another Lawsuit Over Whether A Company Can Ban The Sale Of Its Products Online

from the first-sale dept

Just last week we were talking about baby stroller companies in the UK trying to prevent retailers from selling their goods on eBay, and now Eric Goldman points us to news of a case in the US on this very issue. Here we have a "dietary supplement" seller, Standard Process, who sued an online e-commerce site, Total Health, for selling its supplements despite not being an "authorized reseller." Basically, Total Health would buy products from Standard Process through other means and then resell them online -- which seems like it should be perfectly legal.

Not so far, claims the judge. The court refused to grant a summary judgment, claiming that, even though Total Health makes it abundantly clear that it is not an authorized reseller, because Total Health uses the pronouns "we" and "our" in describing Standard Process' products that it somehow (how? who knows?) implies evidence of an affiliation. That seems like quite a stretch. The judge also notes that since Total Health shows up as the top ad result in a search for Standard Process, there's an implied association (why? again... that's not explained at all). There are a few other questionable bits of reasoning by the judge, highlighted at the link above. The judge did rule in Total Health's favor on the question of whether or not it interfered with the "contract" between Standard Process and its authorized resellers, by noting that there's no actual contract if Standard Process just tells the resellers the terms without any actual agreement or exchange taking place. It has the right to stop selling to those resellers, but not to claim that they broke an existing contract.

Still the first part of this ruling does seem quite questionable. It seems like a stretch to think that any moron in a hurry would be confused by Total Health's marketing claims -- when it quite clearly states that it's not an official reseller of Standard Process' goods. It seems like the court twisted itself over backwards to try to come up with any loose link to try to make that connection.

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  1. identicon
    Speaker, 8 Jul 2008 @ 9:58am

    Depends on which moron you choose

    Not all "moron's in a hurry" are created equally. Seems that law today is as much about choosing the correct venue as the intent of the law. Choosing the correct judge or correct jury mix can have as much an effect on outcome as whether there is an actual case.

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