Oprah sues 3 Utah companies

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Mehmet Oz have sued three Utah companies, saying their names and images were used to sell nutritional supplements without permission.

Among the more than 50 businesses named in the lawsuit are Monavie of South Jordan, Crush LLC of Sandy and 456 Vital Health Systems LLC of Spanish Fork.

Winfrey and the doctor, who is a frequent guest on her talk show, say the public is being deceived into thinking the two have endorsed products like acai berry, a fruit touted as a miracle weight loss supplement.

Their suit claims that following a show last year in which Oz discusses the Brazilian berry, Internet ads started to appear featuring images of him and Winfrey.

"We know that thousands of people have been misled by these marketing practices," said attorney Marc Rachman, who represents Winfrey and Oz.

Representatives of Monavie and Crush denied using Winfrey or Oz to endorse their products.

A top official at Monavie said it was mistakenly put on a list of "Internet scammers" who trade on the reputation of the acai as a health-promoting berry the company makes into a drink product.

"Monavie really created the acai business in the United States ... and it's really (Internet scammers) trading on our good name," said Devin Thorpe, the company's chief financial officer.

Jason Brailow, a principal officer at Crush and its parent, TMP Nevada, also denied any wrongdoing by his companies.

"They thought they were doing something we didn't do," he told the Salt Lake Tribune.

A tape-recorded message at 456 Vital Health Systems said no one would be available until Monday.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Manhattan Federal Court in New York.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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