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Some MLM company that threatens to sue anyone who mentions its name

RIP MLMOn July 3, 2003, Nutrition For Life International went into bankruptcy. And people say that there is no such thing as karma.

It's not pining! It's passed on! This MLM is no more! It has ceased to be! It's expired and gone to meet its maker! It's a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed it to the perch it'd be pushing up the daisies! Its metabolic processes are now history! It's off the twig! It's kicked the bucket, it's shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-SCAM!!
(Thanks very much to all at Monty Python for the inspiration)

I received a letter from a lawyer representing a company called Nutrition for Life International, Inc (NFLI) stating that I have committed some sort of intellectual property infringement by listing the company's web site in The Millenium Project.

Re: Trademark Infringement, Dilution and Unfair Competition of U.S. Trademark Registration Numbers 1,862,976; 2,142,105; 2,262,785; and 2,259,302.

January 21, 2003
Attn: Owner/Legal Counsel
Dear Sir/Madam:

Our firm represents Nutrition For Life International, Inc. (NFLI) in FDA and Intellectual Property matters.

NFLI is the exclusive owner of the federally registered trademark and service mark "Nutrition For Life" (U.S. PTO Registration Numbers 1,862,976; 2,142,105; 2,262,785 and 2,259,302). NFLI owns trademark rights throughout the world including Canada, European Union, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. NFLI also owns several "Nutrition For Life" state registrations and common law rights for a large array of goods and services.

NFLrs product line consists of many health-related products, including dietary supplements and drugs, and services, including nutritional counseling. By virtue of NFLI's efforts and expenditure of considerable sums for promotional activities and by virtue of the excellence of its "Nutrition For Life" products and services, NFLI has developed a valuable good will and reputation in respect to its famous "Nutrition For Life" trademark and service mark.

We were recently informed that Gebesse Holdings ("GH") has used the "Nutrition For Life" trademark and service mark. It uses the "Nutrition for Life" trademark and service mark on its Internet web page www.ratbaqs.com/rsoles/list07.htm and throughout the web site. Such unauthorized use of NFLI's "Nutrition For Life" mark may very well constitute trademark and service mark infringement, dilution and other related state and federal unfair competition violations.

Therefore, we request that GH immediately cease and desist its use of NFLrs mark, "Nutrition For Life". Our request to immediately cease and desist using the "Nutrition For Life" trademark and service mark concerns any and all uses of the mark, including but not limited to use on books, signs, brochures, flyers, catalogs, magazines, product order forms, labels, letterhead, envelopes, and any and all other uses of the "Nutrition For Life" mark, including use on the Internet and in all programming code such as html language and meta tags;

Please send to our firm, within 10 business days, GH's written assurance that it will comply with our requests, or otherwise respond to this letter.

Please call me if you have any questions. We hope you will at least understand NFLI's concerns and necessity to protect against unauthorized use of its most valuable trademark. NFLI is only requesting that GH stop using NFLI's "Nutrition For Life" trademark which cannot be argued to be an unreasonable request. Thus, despite legal defenses you believe that GH may have, our request is fair & reasonable and your cooperation in amicably resolving this matter without the need for court action wilt be greatly appreciated.

Please note that NFLI does not waive and hereby reserves any and all rights and remedies it has in connection with this matter.

Sincerely,

Rakesh M. Amin

According to the company's web site, Nutrition for Life is a multi-level marketing organisation selling opportunities to "start a home-based business and make it grow" and also some "health and wellness" products, which appear to be a miracle weight-loss product (it must be a miracle because it seems to work in contravention of the normal rules of nutrition which state that there is no such thing as a food which can make you slim) and a vitamin supplement. I have listed "opportunities" first in this list before the products as it appears first on their web site. This is consistent with most multi-level marketing schemes in that the pyramid is what matters most, not any product which coincidentally might move through the structure.

In the letter from the lawyer it states that "NFLI owns trademark rights throughout the world, including ... Australia". A search of the Australian Trade Mark Office database shows that the trademark "Nutrition for Life" is registered to Merck & Co, and that it is a trademark for "Professional advisory and consultancy services for the assistance of patients suffering illnesses such as HIV, including dietetic and medical advisory and consultancy services". I find this all quite confusing, and I have contacted the legal firm representing Merck on trademark matters in Australia for a comment.

The letter sent to Merck's lawyers said:

I have received a letter from a US law firm accusing me of infringement of trademark rights owned by a company called Nutrition for Life International Inc. This alleged infringement consists solely of having a link on a web page to that company's site, so I am not particularly worried by the threat and I don't plan to do anything about it. I feel that the accusation of trademark infringement is just a way of trying to suppress any criticism of the US company's activities. I have made no representation that could in any way suggest that I have anything to do with them. I simply used their name as a link to their site.

All of this is just background to why I am writing to you.

In the letter from the US lawyers the unequivocal statement is made that "NFLI owns trademark rights throughout the world including ... Australia" to the mark "Nutrition for Life". When I checked the Australian register I found that the mark has a pending registration held by Merck & Co, with your firm as the local representative for this purpose. Also, the stated purpose of the Australian mark, "Professional advisory and consultancy services for the assistance of patients suffering illnesses such as HIV, including dietetic and medical advisory and consultancy services", does not seem to have much in common with the operations of NFLI, which appear to be a multi-level marketing scheme to sell doubtful "medical" products. This type of business also doesn't look like anything Merck would be doing.

I thought that you should know that somebody is claiming ownership of a trademark which appears at this time to belong to somebody else. It would not be the first time that someone from North America has told me things while acting under the misapprehension that facts cannot be checked in somewhere as far away as Australia.

But wait, there's more ...

Re: Trademark Infringement, Dilution and Unfair Competition of U.S. Trademark Registration Numbers 1,862,976; 2,142,105; 2,262,785; and 2,259,302.

February 25, 2003
Attn: Owner/Legal Counsel
Dear Sir/Madam:

This letter pertains to a cease and desist letter sent to you by Weaver & Amin, on behalf of its client Nutrition For Life International, Inc. (please see attached original cease and desist letter).

We still have not received any response, written or otherwise, despite requiring such a response to resolve this dispute. Therefore, please promptly respond to the cease and desist letter in writing and send to Weaver & Amin, 217 N. Jefferson Street, Suite 602, Chicago, Illinois 60661 or fax to (312) 466-0088 or otherwise call Rakesh Amin at (312) 466-0077. You can also e-mail Rakesh Amin at ramin@weaveramin.com.

Please be advised that we need a prompt response regarding this matter. If we do not receive a prompt response, we will be forced to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for trademark infringement and dilution for which we will vigorously seek actual and punitive damages as well as attorney fees and costs. If we need to file a lawsuit, it is a policy of Nutrition For Life International, Inc. ("NFLI") to not settle any matter or dismiss any lawsuit without payment of money for attorney fees and costs at a minimum. Please note that NFLI recently collected in excess of $365,000.00 for settlement of a lawsuit against EAS/Bill Phillips for their unauthorized use of the "Nutrition For Life" mark. NFLI was forced to file the lawsuit to protect its most valuable trademark as EAS ignored a simple cease and desist request with no monetary demand. NFLI was forced to file suit and EAS later had to pay the price of not only being disrespectful of other's rights but also paid a steep price for making a bad business decision to not adequately respond to our simple cease and desist request. Thus, we request a written response so we do not need to automatically file a lawsuit.

Please promptly contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I look forward to hearing from you soon and your cooperation in amicably resolving this matter will be greatly appreciated.

Rakesh Amin

When I received your first letter I was puzzled, as the only mention of Nutrition For Life on my site was the name of the company, used as a link to its web site, and this could hardly be seen as misrepresentation or passing off. As companies spend large amounts of money to get their names widely recognised, it struck me as strange that anyone could interpret trademark law to suggest that a company's name was so sacred that it could not be said or written. Equally confusing was the implication that just saying a company's name, especially one as inoffensive as "Nutrition For Life", could cause damage to the company's reputation or business.

I can only assume that the resort to a claim of intellectual property infringement is a ploy to bypass the laws granting freedom of speech and is used by Nutrition For Life to suppress any criticism, real or implied, of their multi-level marketing activities. As requested, however, I have removed the company's name from the link, and it now says "Some MLM company that threatens to sue anyone who mentions its name".

I noticed in your first letter that you claimed that NFLI was the owner of the trademark "Nutrition For Life" in Australia. A check with the relevant authorities showed that, in fact, that mark has a pending registration to Merck & Co. I have passed on the details of your claim to the intellectual property lawyers who act for Merck in this part of the world.

As is my usual practice, your letter has been scanned and its contents and this reply have been loaded up to my web site.


This nonsense has been submitted to the Chilling Effect Clearinghouse.


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