Whether it is an issue related to allergies, diet or nutrition, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the host of the daytime hit series, “The Dr. Oz Show,” has become a trustworthy and popular source for reliable health-related information. So popular, in fact, that numerous product advertisements, using his name and image, appear to be popping up everywhere -- on the Internet, on the radio and in email, stores and magazines. However, according to Dr. Oz, he does not, in fact, endorse any brands. These companies, he claims, are illegally using his name and are leading consumers to believe that Dr. Oz is behind their products, when he is not.
Earlier this month, Dr. Oz launched the “It’s Not Me” campaign to combat marketing scams that are illegally using his name. Angered by companies capitalizing on his name, putting his reputation at risk and attempting to dupe unsuspecting consumers into purchasing potentially ineffective and unsafe products, he is utilizing a campaign to fight these marketing scams that takes a multi-prong approach.
With respect to his show, Dr. Oz announced that beginning May 6, 2013, he would end each show with a disclaimer that reads:
"If you receive an e-mail or any kind of direct marketing claiming to be from me selling a product with my name, my image or the show's name, you need to know IT'S NOT ME! I consider anyone that uses my name or my picture to try to sell you a product or supplement reckless and dangerous. They are undermining my credibility with you and the trust you place in me. More importantly, it could be dangerous to your health. Please go to doctoroz.com/oz-watch to report if you receive any messages that use me to sell you anything. To see a list of our trusted partners, please go to Dr. Oz.com."
In addition, Dr. Oz has established an “OzWatch” portal on his website at www.doctoroz.com, where consumers may report violations. The portal also permits consumers to submit screenshots of offending sites or products. According to the Dr. Oz website, over 11,000 complaints have been logged through the portal so far.
Further, the Dr. Oz website has posted a list of “trusted partners”. This is to inform consumers of the companies with whom the Dr. Oz show does have official partnerships.
The fraudulent endorsements faced by Dr. Oz raise potential issues of false advertising and trademark infringement – issues that are faced by many intellectual property owners. However, as Dr. Oz’s “It’s Not Me” campaign illustrates, resorting to formal proceedings to pursue violations is not the only remedy. Dr. Oz’s campaign provides examples of other avenues, such as corrective advertising, crowdsourcing and consumer education, that intellectual property owners can use to seek relief. And, these options may prove to be effective, particularly with respect to infringement on the Internet, which may be difficult to police.