Life Alert sues Connect America, LifeWatch USA

PERS provider alleges trademark infringement, role in fraudulent telemarketing
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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

LOS ANGELES—Life Alert, a leading provider of personal emergency response systems, has filed suit against competitors Connect America and LifeWatch USA, alleging they have been impersonating Life Alert through fraudulent “robo-calls” and other telemarketing to obtain new customers.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court here on May 14, alleges unfair competition, false designation of origin, trademark infringement and trademark dilution.

The suit states that at some point prior to 2013, Connect America and LifeWatch USA began illegally obtaining PERS customers by using the services of telemarketers including Live Agent Response LLC, Greg Small and Trilogy Investment LLC. The three entities are named as additional defendants in suit, along with Connect America Chairman Ken Gross and LifeWatch CEO Evan Sirlin.

Life Alert alleges that the telemarketers called potential PERS customers and falsely stated that they worked for Life Alert or with the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” company. The slogan and the name are both registered trademarks.

The lawsuit also claims that the telemarketers used “robo-calls” to intentionally contact Life Alert’s existing customers and indicate that the calls concerned updating their Life Alert equipment. “However, when [the customers] requested the updated Life Alert equipment, they received Connect America equipment instead,” the suit states.

Olga Vlasova, vice president of marketing for Life Alert, said customers and non-customers alike have been calling the company to complain about the practices. She said she did not know how much revenue Life Alert might have lost or the number of people affected, but said it represented “a huge volume of calls.”

“The problem here is that not only did our reputation suffer, and our business obviously suffered, but my heart goes out to the senior people that get these calls and don’t know how to stop them,” Vlasova told Security Systems News. “They’re scared because they don’t understand what is going on. There is a lot of confusion, and that’s exactly the purpose of those calls, I believe.”

Connect America, based in Broomall, Pa., and LifeWatch, based in Hewlett, N.Y., both denied wrongdoing. The companies issued separate statements that called the lawsuit “frivolous."

“Connect America and Mr. Gross each vehemently deny the false and meritless allegations made against them in Life Alert’s lawsuit as well as the reckless and misleading allegations made against them in the press release issued on behalf of Life Alert on May 22,” Connect America said in its statement. “Connect America does no telemarketing.”

The company said it is exploring all legal remedies in the case, including possible action against Life Alert “and any other responsible parties which have defamed and injured the reputations of Connect America and Mr. Gross.” Gross is president of the Medical Alert Monitoring Association, a national group that promotes the development and policies of the industry.

Jason Sultzer, an attorney for LifeWatch, said in a prepared statement that the lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to gain an unfair competitive advantage in the marketplace.

“To that end, LifeWatch intends on defending the lawsuit vigorously and is confident it will prevail, as it has done nothing wrong,” Sultzer said.

According to federal court records, Life Alert was granted a permanent injunction in 2008 against Connect America and the pharmacy giant CVS over the use of Life Alert’s trademarks. Connect America markets PERS products through CVS outlets. A similar case filed by Life Alert against Medical Alert Authority in 2012 was settled out of court.

Life Alert has requested a jury trial in the new litigation against LifeWatch and Connect America. The plaintiff is seeking damages, court costs and a permanent trademark injunction. No court date has been set.