Talk show host turned cannabis entrepreneur, Montel Williams, recently brought forth a lawsuit against several medical marijuana companies for trademark infringement.
Williams’ team is suing under the Lanham law, as well as state Florida laws, for trademark infringement, false advertising, violations of the right to publicity and right to privacy, and unfair business practices. The companies are accused of using Williams’ likeness to hock untested and unverified CBD products.
Williams has been a vocal medical cannabis advocate since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, and recently founded his own cannabis company, LenitivLabs.
Williams has also been very adamant about ensuring that medical cannabis products are safely tested under strict regulation, and has warned the public in the past that “the legal cannabis industry is laden with non-medical brands and products.”
Meet the Defendants
The defendants in the case are listed as Advanceable Technology, LLC, Beauty Strong, Hathor Secrets, Secrets of ISIS, Snowflake Marketing, LLC, although it appears that all of these companies are under the ownership of Timothy Isaac of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Isaac was once a semi-famous weightlifter who was profiled in Sports Illustrated in 1999 for setting a world record by bench-pressing 800 pounds, but his success was short-lived.
Issac faced charges from a lawsuit in 2009 for the selling of misbranded drugs, after illegally importing and selling Chinese drugs similar to Viagra.
He was also charged with tax fraud and fraudulently obtaining government benefits. He was sentenced to five years in jail, and was released in 2014.
After an April interview with Forbes, in which Willliams discussed his new venture with LenitivLabs, he was alerted to the fraudulent brand usage. Would-be customers reached out to him inquiring about at least 10 various products labeled as cannabidiol (CBD) oil under brand names such as Revive CBD Oil, Sky CBD, Pure Isolate CBD, and Hemptif CBD Oil, using his name and likeness as part of their branding and marketing.
“It’s important to remember that these scams are anything but victimless. They are, in fact, calculated to prey on vulnerable consumers, many of whom have chronic illness or other disabilities,” said Jonathan Franks, spokesman for Montel Williams. “We heard from elderly customers and veterans on fixed incomes who incurred unexpected overdraft fees as a result of these scams.”
These companies would offer a “free trial,” but continue charging customers’ credit cards repeatedly, making it difficult to stop the charges or contact the company.
One of the most blatant advertisements appears to be a fake ABC News article, including a photograph of Williams with the caption: “This talk show host uses two things to help ease the debilitating pain since his 1999 diagnoses of multiple sclerosis: snowboarding and Hemptif CBD. Williams claims that it has transformed his life so drastically that he’ll use it until the day he dies.”
“This was the deliberate theft of Mr. Williams’ name and reputation to weaponize it against sick people, and this lawsuit isn’t about lining Mr. Williams’ pockets,” Franks insisted, “It’s about holding the perpetrators of these scams accountable and to stop them from continuing to deceive consumers.”