ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CN) - Bausch & Lomb claims its competitor CIBA Vision is "preying on and taking advantage of fear and uncertainty" in ads that liken Bausch & Lomb's ReNu MultiPlus contact solution to a product that was recalled 3 years ago.
In its federal complaint, Bausch & Lomb claims CIBA Vision's and Novartis's ads were designed to deceive eye-care professionals and customers, warning that clinicians who recommend ReNu MultiPlus to patients will face "Clinical and legal nightmares for [their] business." (Brackets in complaint.)
The current legal battle originates from a microscopic organism called Acanthamoeba, which lives freely in the environment and can be found in places around the house such as hot tubs or air-conditioning units.
The Centers for Disease Control maintain that most people will be exposed to Acanthamoeba and will not get sick. But it's capable of causing infections in humans, including in the eye, which if not promptly treated could result in permanent vision impairment or blindness.
Bausch & Lomb claims that "CIBA Vision has recently begun running an alarmist, irresponsible, and patently false print advertising campaign implicating serious health concerns for consumers, and legal and clinical problems for clinicians. ... The advertisement contains multiple clear and unambiguous messages that are demonstrably false, are not supported by CIBA Vision's single study in support of its claims, and are contradicted by Bausch & Lomb's independently conducted research."
Bausch & Lomb claims CIBA wants to confuse people into believing ReNu MultiPlus does not protect against the organism, though it does.
The 1-page print ads for CIBA's Clear Care, a hydrogen peroxide, began showing up around a month ago, including in the "Review of Optometry" journal.
Clear Care competes head-to-head with Bausch & Lomb's ReNu MultiPlus.
"The advertisement grabs the reader's attention with the image of a large target, as seen through a gunsight," the complaint states. "In the center of the target the words 'THE BEST WEAPON AGAINST ACANTHAMOEBA' are displayed in bold, capital letters. The word 'Acanthamoeba' is depicted as decaying or being eaten away in a haunting, yellow hue, conveying fear and concern over an already scary sounding and foreign medical term."
CIBA states in the ad that Clear Care is "100 percent" effective in eliminating Acanthamoeba cysts, a claim Bausch & Lomb calls "false." The ad compares Bausch & Lob's newer product with its ReNu MultiPlus and Complaint Moisture Plus, which were withdrawn in 2007 after being linked with Acanthamoeba-related infections. Both ReNu MultiPlus and the recalled product are advertised, in the offending ads, as having zero percent efficiency against Acanthamoeba cysts.
"There can be no other reason that CIBA Vision would draw comparisons to a product that has been off the market for years, and thus not a competing product, other than to cause the association of a recalled product connected to Acanthamoeba concerns with Bausch & Lomb's ReNu MultiPlus," the complaint states.
"In blind pursuit of sales gains and market share, CIBA Vision is preying on and taking advantage of fear and uncertainty in the contact lens care product market."
Bausch & Lomb seeks an injunction, an accounting of profits, and damages for false advertising, product disparagement, injurious falsehood, trade libel and other charges. It is represented by Paul Leclair with Leclair Korona Giordano Cole.