Pfizer, Microsoft Aim to Deflate Viagra Spam

Viagra-maker Pfizer has teamed with Microsoft to file a total of 17 lawsuits targeting people who allegedly advertised or sold what they claimed to be the erectile dysfunction drug.

Because it isn’t an ISP, Pfizer can’t file suit under the CAN-SPAM Act, so it sought help from Microsoft to protect its brand from spammers. Pfizer’s 12 suits target Web sites that allegedly sell fake Viagra, along with domain name owners who use the trademarked brand name without its permission. Microsoft’s five suits, filed under CAN-SPAM and Washington state law, are aimed at people who allegedly use illegal spam to promote those sites.

“Many people mistakenly believe that the Viagra email cluttering their inboxes is from Pfizer,” said Beth Levine, general counsel of U.S. pharmaceuticals for Pfizer. “Pfizer doesn’t send spam or support the sending of spam.”

As part of the effort, Pfizer has posted information on its Web site telling consumers where they can legally buy Viagra online. Though the company previously conducted a banner ad campaign to inform consumers it’s not behind Viagra spam, Levine declined to say whether Pfizer would undertake such an effort now.

“We maintain quite a robust section [about Viagra spam] on the Web site, but I can’t really comment on what future plans might be regarding the advertising medium,” said Levine.

The Pfizer suits target two entities — CanadianPharmacy (cndpharmacy.com) and E-Pharmacy Direct (myepharmacydirect.com)– for allegedly selling and importing non-FDA approved sildenafil citrate, a generic version of Viagra. Pfizer accuses the two of trademark infringement and unfair competition under both federal and state law. Pfizer also alleges the companies engage in deceptive trade practices that violate New York state law.

The pharmaceutical giant has also filed 10 domain-name dispute actions against people who use Pfizer’s Viagra trademark, including half-priceviagra.com, cheapviagrastore.com, viagra.com.ua, and shopviagra.com.

Microsoft’s suits target people who allegedly send illegal spam promoting CanadianPharmacy, E-Pharmacy Direct, and three other online pharmacies. The complaints allege the defendants — currently named as John Does because they can’t be identified — sent email with deceptive and misleading header information in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act.

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