Roca Labs: Until someone puts out an eye
It has just been all too, too much to follow, especially from the distance I’ve had to keep from the whole thing — a small distance, mind you, as I’ll explain. But really, all the fun is taking place in Florida, a somewhat larger distance, excepting by email, see, and —
Well, as I said. It’s almost too much to follow. The “it” is the rollicking litigation carnival brought to our good friends at PissedConsumer.com by the world-famous Roca Labs. And yes, it is too much too follow, but by the grace of the Internet there’s Popehat, and he’s done the hard work for me, to wit:
[D]uring the month that I was consumed by trial, a case arose that appears scripted — a case that seems intelligently designed with stock characters, movie-villain behavior, and hilarity.
I speak of Roca Labs vs. anyone who speaks ill of them.
Roca Labs is in the weight-loss business. As near as I can tell from its website —check it out yourself — Roca markets an alternative to various weight-loss surgeries: a substance that you consume to fill your stomach, thus reducing appetite and available pizza space. The graphics of the Roca Labs substance remind me of the psychomagnotheric slime from Ghostbusters II, but I want to emphasize that I know of no evidence that Roca Labs’ product has any supernatural properties.
Yet the arcane and unnatural plays a role in Roca Labs’ approach to the market — in the form of an unnaturally ridiculous approach to criticism.
Roca Labs apparently has a clause in at least some of its purchase contracts that forbids customers from criticizing it or its products. Here’s how they describe it, openly, in one of their filings:
In exchange for a significant discount (discounts average $800) customers contractually agree that, regardless of their outcome, they will not speak, publish, print, blog, or write negatively about Roca or its products in any forum.
Now, I think you’d have to be quite stupid to agree not to criticize the person who is providing you with medicinal substances, but then we are talking about a population that has decided to consume large volumes of pink slime to lose weight.
Those “I won’t criticize” clauses rarelyendwell. But Roca Labs is optimistic, to put it mildly. They’ve sued Pissedconsumer.com on a theory that I will call “novel” because “bat&#@! crazy” is rude. Roca Labs says that Pissedconsumer.com is interfering with their contractual relations with their clients by allowing the clients to post complaints about Roca Labs. That’s their attempt to evade the protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally immunizes sites from suits over what their visitors post. Roca Labs is even seeking a preliminary injunction to force PissedConsumer.com to take down the critical posts, a classic case of unconstitutional prior restraint.
Marc Randazza is representing Pissedconsumer.com. As you would guess, that is not a happy development for Roca Labs. Randazza kicks the &#@! out of Roca Labs’ ridiculous demand for prior restraint, and in the course of doing so provides a swarm of BBB complaints, declarations from unhappy customers, and a rather unflattering review by a doctor.
But wait — there’s more!
I guess someone’s going to have to spill the beans here: This is not only not Roca Labs’ first time to the censorship-by-litigation prom — it’s not even its first time litigating with PissedConsumer.com.
This month, I mean.
Right now, I’m saying.
At the same time, is my point.
In New York
The (so far) untold story?
Yep, PissedConsumer.com actually sued RocaLabs first. I know it because I was there — literally. (I love taking the subway downtown and physically filing a lawsuit. Who doesn’t?)
And boy, I wish I could share the email traffic between Randazza and PissedConsumer’s regular New York counsel the previous night but… that’s for some other time, I suppose.
So, what about the above complaint?
— Marc J. Randazza (@marcorandazza) October 3, 2014
Yeah, ok, well, thanks, but what did Roca Labs do about the above complaint? They went ahead and filed one — and all the other stuff Ken at Popehat is writing about — in Florida anyway. And how about New York? Well…
New Jersey health officials relax after assurance that New York Ebola would never leave all the exciting cultural opportunities in the city. — SPOOKY Hat (@Popehat) October 24, 2014
Well… then, I guess, thanks for the mention — of me and 8 million other culture-vultures!
Oh, the complaint; PissedConsumer’s complaint. They’ve actually made a stupid motion here, too, but — nothing like the fun in Florida. And whatever happened to the first-to-file rule, by the way?
I’d tell you, but I signed an agreement, see …
Anyway, let me know how things go with Marc’s client, PissedConsumer! As long as one of us is having fun… and someone’s left to pay for it, that is. Otherwise, it’s all fun and games, until…
UPDATE: The case was not dismissed, but was transferred — as we requested to the court — to Florida, where all the action is anyway. Here’s the latest “summary” of what’s going on: