First Fruits Business Ministry has sent Awakend a cease and desist, pertaining to marketing of its Zenith supplement.
FFBM claims Awakend has made ‘false, misleading, and deceptive claims about First Fruits’ product Trisynex’.
After digging into available information last week, BehindMLM raised suspicion over Awakend’s marketing claims.
Our primary concern was the patent Awakend represented Zenith was manufactured under, not only didn’t belong to formulator Vietal Nutrition – but that it was expired.
FFBM’s cease and desist confirms those suspicions and provides context to the current situation.
Vietal and Awakend appear to be passing-off First Fruits’ product Trisynex as their own product Zenith.
This is a classic bait and switch that deceives and potentially endangers consumers.
These actions plainly constitute false advertising, false designation of source and origin, passing-off and unfair competition in violation of applicable federal and state law.
I’ve separated that context into various issues raised in the document below.
Note that anything in a green box is quoted directly from FFBM’s cease and desist, dated and sent to Awakend’s attorney on September 7th, 2022.
The expired Trisynex Patent
Awakend falsely claims to have exclusive rights to U.S Patent No. 6,899,892 (the “’892 patent”).
This patent is EXPIRED, as you confirmed in a recent filing you submitted on behalf of Tripharma, LLC, in the matter of Tripharma, LLC v. First Fruits Business Ministry LLC, et al.
As you yourself have acknowledged, nobody has exclusive rights to the ’892 patent anymore and any lawyer or competent business person would know that.
Claiming exclusive rights to an expired patent is unlawful.
As to the current status of Trisynex, as it pertains to patenting;
First, the UCONN study was to Trisynex, not Zenith.
Second, First Fruits owns U.S. Patent No. 10,632,092 (the ‘092 patent) “Composition for and Method to Increase Serum Adiponectin and Reduce Body Fat.”
This issued patent was duly granted by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to Roger J. Catarino and William D. Kuhne on April 28, 2020, and assigned to First Fruits. This patent is presumed valid.
Awakend’s doctored 2009 Trisynex study
Last month BehindMLM noted Awakend was providing consumers with a doctored study it falsely represented pertained to Zenith.
Awakend has since acknowledged the original study didn’t pertain to Zenith, but maintains Trisynex and Zenith are the same formula.
Here’s FFBM’s take;
The copy of the study that Awakend has provided to prospective consumers and distributors is clearly doctored to include the name “Zenith” as the subject of the study.
Not only did “Zenith” not exist nearly 14 years ago, but the true subject of the study was Trisynex. Vietal and Awakend simply doctored the study and substituted every instance of Trisynex for “Zenith.”
Neither Awakend nor Vietal were involved, in any capacity, in that clinical study and clearly modified the text of the study to defraud potential consumers and distributors into believing that Zenith was subject to a rigorous clinical analysis.
It plainly was not, and Awakend’s modification of that study constitutes trademark infringement, copyright infringement, fraud, false advertising, and unfair competition, in violation of applicable state and federal laws.
Awakend’s use of Colin F. Watson in Zenith marketing
Awakend has utilized the services of self-proclaimed fitness and nutrition coach, Colin F. Watson, to appear in a video entitled “On Zenith and Awakend Health,” during which he provides a testimonial in support of the effectiveness of “Zenith.”
Mr. Watson echoes the false representations pertaining to the origin of Zenith,” the doctoring of the 2008 clinical study to make it sound like it was testing “Zenith,” and the effectiveness of “Zenith” rather than the true product, Trisynex.
Mr. Watson begins his video by stating that these misrepresentations were made to him directly by Awakend’s CEO, Danielle Meoli, and that he reviewed a copy of the (doctored) study in supporting his conclusions.
Awakend’s use of James (Jim) Roufs and Lorna Vanderhaeghe in Zenith marketing
Awakend developed an additional marketing video further utilized to mislead consumers and prospective participants in Awakend’s multi-level marketing scheme as to the origin of “Zenith.”
This video includes remarks by James (Jim) Roufs and women’s health “expert” Lorna Vanderhaeghe touting the launch of “Zenith.”
In so doing, Mr. Roufs and Ms. Vanderhaeghe parrot Awakend’s fraudulent misrepresentations regarding the origin of “Zenith” and the application of the University of Connecticut clinical study to “Zenith.”
This video provides yet another critical example of Awakend’s efforts to defraud their consumer base and coax unwitting customers into participating in their multi-level marketing scheme.
With every recruit, both Vietal and Awakend deliberately mislead victims into participating in their campaign of false advertising, unfair business practices, and misrepresentation surrounding First Fruits’ ownership rights to Trisynex, further solidifying their liability, including vicarious liability, for engaging in these myriad unfair business practices.
Vietal Nutrition’s lawyer’s statements with respect to FFBM and Trisynex (as published on Awakend’s website)
Reid Winthrop, General Counsel of Vietal, has exacerbated this already voluminous laundry list of misdeeds by engaging in a smear campaign on Awakend’s website.
Mr. Winthrop’s false and defamatory statements label Mr. Roger Catarino and First Fruits as “infringers” and echo the prior misrepresentations made by Vietal and Awakend pertaining to “Zenith.”
Mr. Winthrop repeats the lie that “Zenith” was the subject of the University of Connecticut study.
He also repeats the lie that First Fruits’ rights in Trisynex constitute “an effort to steal the tradename and create uncertainty where none existed,” when in fact First Fruits has no interest in using the tradename Zenith and First Fruits is the party which has an issued patent on technology Vietal and Zenith are infringing.
His statements are blatant falsehoods designed to harm First Fruits and Mr. Catarino’s business interests and thus plainly constitute defamation per se.
Mr. Winthrop, in his same statement on Awakend’s website, also makes reference to TriPharma, LLC’s business practices, their ownership of the “exclusive rights” to sell products based on the ‘892 patent, and their obtaining judgments against Imagenetix, Inc. and First Fruits.
This is false and misleading. Mr. Winthrop fails to mention is that the ‘892 patent is EXPIRED and thus provides no such rights.
Mr. Winthrop fails to mention that TriPharma’s license to the ‘892 patent expired on October 1, 2014, nearly eight years ago.
Mr. Winthrop also fails to mention that when TriPharma tried to extend the license, they were shut down by Federal District Court Judge Selna on December 8, 2014.
Mr. Winthrop also fails to mention that – less than two months ago in the pending action between Tripharma and First Fruits – Judge Selna denied Tripharma’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, concluding that Tripharma had not demonstrated a likelihood of prevailing on its ongoing specious claim that it has the exclusive license to the patent and related intellectual property.
And finally, Mr. Winthrop fails to mention that in relation to a subsequent and related bankruptcy proceeding, TriPharma LLC’s CEO, Evan P. Dameshek, was indicted for and plead guilty to bankruptcy fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 157.
Mr. Dameshek admitted to fabricating nearly $3,200,000.00 in business dealings in order to defraud Imagenetix, Inc. in 2019 as it pertains to the very product supposedly now exclusively owned by Vietal and Awakend, namely Zenith.
FFBM’s demands to Awakend and Vietal Nutrition
First Fruits demands that Vietal and Awakend immediately and permanently cease and desist from making any false, misleading or deceptive claims about the true nature of Trisynex as explained herein.
First Fruits further demands that Vietal and Awakend immediately and permanently remove the misleading claims from their website(s), issue a formal retraction of these claims, and cease and desist from any marketing or sale of “Zenith” or any product derived or developed from the misuse of First Fruits’ intellectual property.
While First Fruits takes issue with all of the false and defamatory statements to date, First Fruits is even more troubled by the ongoing efforts to market and distribute “Zenith” in clear contravention of First Fruits’ intellectual property rights.
Vietal and Awakend falsely play the victim to prospective participants in a complex multi-level marketing scheme, when in reality they have no legal authority, in any capacity, to sell, market, distribute, or permit others to sell, market, or distribute, any variation of Trisynex.
Because TriPharma, Vietal, Awakend, and Mr. Winthrop, are on clear written notice of First Fruits’ potential legal claims, they are required by law to preserve all evidence related to their actions and conduct.
This means they must preserve and not destroy any and all hard-copy and electronically-stored information relating to the above matters, including text messages and emails with current and former TriPharma, Vietal and Awakend employees and others.
This obligation includes preservation of all documents, electronic files, emails, text messages, voicemails, social media messaging, hidden system files, and metadata presently located on or contained in any freestanding computer, laptop, tablet, cellular phone, cloud storage system, email or social media account, or other digital device that may contain data-storage capabilities, including but not limited to, hard disk drives, optical disk drives, removable media, such as thumb drives, CD-ROM and DVD drives, flash or zip drives, or any other similar electronic-storage media or system of whatever name or description.
The above preservation obligations are continuing and, therefore, include information that may come into existence after the date of this letter, or that may exist now or in the future.
As you can no doubt appreciate, First Fruits takes these matters very seriously and will not hesitate to take all appropriate steps to protect its legal rights.
Having been advised of our concerns, we trust that you, TriPharma, Vietal and Awakend will cease and desist and refrain from these and any other unlawful activities.
FFBM has given Awakend and Vietal Nutrition till September 14th to comply.
Unless you respond and agree to take the above corrective actions by September 14, 2022, First Fruits will take appropriate action to protect its legal rights and prevent false advertising, false designation of source and origin, passing-off, unfair competition or other unlawful acts or practices. Please govern your actions accordingly.
Because I’m acutely familiar with what goes on in the MLM industry, I’m going to nip any whacky conspiracy theories in the bud.
BehindMLM’s interest in Awakend and Zenith extends only as far as our coverage of the MLM industry. We’ve been reporting on bad actors in the MLM industry and related shenanigans for over twelve years.
Whether Awakend or First Fruits Business Ministry prevails in this ongoing dispute, BehindMLM has “no skin in the game” so to speak. As part of our commitment to our readers, we’ll be covering what happens next regardless.
BehindMLM’s coverage of Awakend and Zenith, excluding this article, was part of our routine coverage of the MLM industry. Neither Awakend, Vietal Nutrition or anyone representing the companies had or have been in contact.
Roger Catarino (right), owner and CEO of FFBM, first reached out on September 1st.
Catarino informed me that BehindMLM’s thus far published coverage on Awakend and Zenith was “mostly accurate”.
He requested I email him”for the truth which will be documented with facts”.
I responded to Catarino’s email on September 8th.
This prompted a response from Catarino, informing me of the cease and desist sent to Awakend.
I promised you the Truth supported by documentation. Please see the attached, as it goes into great and specific detail, about the violations Vietal and Awakend have and continue to commit.
A copy of the C&D was attached to the email.
Neither Awakend or FFBM have had any input into BehindMLM’s thus far coverage of Awakend and Zenith.
While I did ask for permission to report on the C&D Catarino sent me, which was granted, he had no input or oversight into publication of this article.
BehindMLM has not received any payment or compensation of any kind from FFBM or Catarino. Beyond seeking permission to report on the C&D, as a matter of courtesy, BehindMLM has also not entered into any agreement with FFBM, Awakend, Vietal Nutrition or any other related party.
To date nobody from Awakend or Vietal Nutrition has contacted BehindMLM about our ongoing research and reporting.
In the comments below our Awakend articles, I have had to repeatedly call out Awakend distributors brainlessly parroting Awakend’s marketing claims – without consideration of our independent research and reporting.
I am unaware of Awakend addressing the issue of the expired Trisynex patent it is representing is valid. Or the fact that, as it stands, neither Awakend or Vietal Nutrition appear to have any standing claim to rights pertaining to manufacture, marketing and sale of Trisynex.
Patent US10632092B2, at least as I understand it, suggests this is not the case for First Fruits Ministries.