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Utah firm sues Medford-based vitamin maker

A Utah vitamin company claims a Rogue Valley firm has piggybacked on its popularity and diminished its profits by selling inferior knockoffs.

Orem, Utah-based Vitamins Online Inc. began selling dietary supplements in 2010 and got its big break when its products appeared on "The Dr. Oz Show" featuring Columbia University professor Mehmet C. Oz. The limelight had a dual effect, boosting sales but also drawing in new competitors, according to court documents.

One of the new competitors, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Medford in March 2014, was NatureWise, an online dietary supplement company on East Barnett Road run by DavidPaul Doyle.

Lawyers for Vitamins Online say the company built a reputation for high-quality vitamins and nutritional supplements such as Nutrigold Garcinia Cambogia Gold and Nutrigold Svetol Green Coffee. Along the way, it has spent millions of dollars in advertising and promotions on the internet to build a positive reputation. Vitamins Online claims NatureWise marketed an inferior line of products that hurt its internet reputation.

Princeton, N.J.-based laboratory Covance tested NatureWise’s NW Garcinia and found the hydroxycitric acid content was 33 percent of each capsule, far less than the standard 60 percent. Likewise hydroxycitric acid constituted 44 percent of a 500 mg capsule. Covance also found NW Garcinia contains less than 1 mg of potassium compared to the 60 mg of potassium NatureWise advertises.

Among other findings about NatureWise products by independent laboratories, San Jose-based Genista Biosciences discovered bovine genomic DNA in a product NatureWise marketed as vegetarian.

The suit also claims NatureWise engaged in seller practices prohibited by Amazon.com, manipulating Amazon.com’s customer review system.

"Doyle has violated the selling policies and manipulated Amazon.com’s customer review system by posting false reviews and/or commenting on the helpfulness of reviews posted by others for NW Garcinia and/or Nutrigold Garcinia, or by causing others to perform such acts," the claim stated. "Doyle’s unfair competition and false and misleading statements ... have caused and continue to cause damage to Vitamins Online’s business, reputation, goodwill, and the loss of sales and profits. Vitamins Online is entitled to recover any profits obtained by Doyle as a result of its unfair competition and false advertising."

In a response to the suit, Doyle's attorneys from Portland law firm Williams, Kastner & Gibbs denied Vitamins Online's claims and questioned the validity of the lab tests. Doyle also denied directly or indirectly manipulating or posting false customer reviews of NatureWise or Nutrigold products online.

Phone messages left with lawyers for both parties were not returned.

A spokesperson for Mehmet Oz wrote that the health guru limits his endorsements.

"Unfortunately, dubious people online will often spam or solicit people, they make it seem as though Dr. Oz is personally endorsing their product — he does not."

The case has yet to go to trial, but a companion suit has subsequently opened in a U.S. District Court in Utah.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.