The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit against two companies and an individual who own websites that the nonprofit addiction treatment leader says infringe on its trademarks and contain deceptive, misleading content harmful to consumers.
“At the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, our mission, first and foremost, is to make sure people affected by substance use disorders get the care they need,” said Mark Mishek, president and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. “Unfortunately, vulnerable people and families suffering from substance use disorders are being harmed by the unethical, and sometimes illegal, marketing and business practices of some who work in the addiction treatment industry.”
The lawsuit, filed Aug. 14 in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, is part of a larger effort by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and other well-regarded addiction treatment providers to reform their own industry. Growing market demand for addiction treatment, driven by the opioid crisis and expanded insurance coverage, has attracted unprecedented private investment and a rapid influx of new providers motivated by profit over people, Mishek recently told a U.S. House committee investigating deceptive sales and marketing practices in the field.
“Our organization is collaborating with policymakers to pursue industry reforms and more robust professional standards to protect consumers. This legal action is another way we are fighting against unscrupulous practices in our field and advocating for people who need help,” Mishek said.
The lawsuit points to specific examples of how the defendants’ websites used the name “Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation” and other trademarks alongside phone numbers that do not connect callers to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. The lawsuit seeks an injunction that would bar the defendants from using the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation name and trademarks and from continuing other forms of unlawful conduct.
“We have initiated this legal action to protect our reputation and to ensure that people seeking help for life-threatening substance use disorders get that help from providers they know and trust, rather than from individuals and companies trying to profit from their addiction through deception,” said Jennifer Lohse, vice president and general counsel for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. “As a leader in the addiction treatment industry, we sometimes see our name and brand used by others without our permission in ways that we think are illegal and harmful to consumers. People with substance use disorders should be able to count on honesty and transparency from those working in the addiction treatment field.”