One of America’s most famed drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers is suing a German clinic it says has knocked off its name without permission.
The Minnesota-based Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation filed the lawsuit against “My Way Betty Ford Klinik” in Bad Brückenau, Germany, Thursday, alleging trademark infringement, cybersquatting and false advertising.
The German treatment center, which operates under the URL mywaybettyford.com, advertises that its “therapy concepts are based on those used at the Betty Ford Center in California, USA,” according to the lawsuit. It also uses a blue-green color scheme similar to Hazelden Betty Ford’s website.
The likeness has confused several patients, including one graduate from the German clinic who recently called Hazelden asking to attend its alumni meetings in the United States, according to the lawsuit.
“There is an urgent public interest in substance use disorder treatment programs, including public awareness of and accessibility to such programs, as well as distribution of accurate information regarding admission to appropriate, convenient, and high quality program locations,” the lawsuit says.
In 2013, Hazelden — a rehab center frequently referenced in TV and movies, with famous alumni like Ozzy Osbourne and Robin Williams — merged with the Betty Ford Center of California to form one of the world’s leading treatment nonprofits, with locations around the country.
Over the past eight years, the German clinic reached out to Hazelden several times to obtain naming rights, including traveling to the United States in 2013 to meet with representatives from Betty Ford, according to the lawsuit. The American clinic declined, and the German one agreed to operate “under a new brand which is not related to Betty Ford.”
But the German clinic continued to use the name, advertising as “the leading addiction treatment and substance withdrawal center in Germany” with “40 years of experience with proven Betty Ford therapy,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit cites several examples of patients and families being confused about the similarities. Last June, for example, a man called Hazelden inquiring about sending his son to the German clinic, according to the lawsuit.
Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036