Blue Cross / Blue Shield objects to having its "name and brand" identified in study without its permission

Jay McQuaide, the Vice-President of Corporate Communications for Massachusetts Blue Cross Blue Shield, recently sent a stiff complaint to local doctors who published a study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine reporting how doctors on its mental health panel responded (or, more specifically, failed to respond) to calls from patients needing immediate appointments for treatment of depression.  McQuaide complained about the fact that the study mentioned Blue Cross Blue Shield in concluding that doctors on its network were not providing sufficient outpatient care to patients after their release from local emergency rooms.

Upon seeing a press release about the study, McQuaide dispatched the following complaint: “We are VERY concerned about the use of BCBSMA’s name and brand in a published study without BCBSMA authorization. We’d like to talk with you about that.” My colleague Sid Wolfe at Public Citizen’s Health Research Group recently took McQuaide to task for his censorship efforts.

Because McQuaide’s LinkedIn profile characterizes him as a “Seasoned communications professional”   it is surprising that he doesn’t understand that having a brand name does not mean that a company can prevent others from discussing the company or criticizing its products or services.  McQuaide apparently told a reporter who called to inquire about his warning that his company can actually use its rights in its brand name to protect itself from being studied or, at least, from being identified in the study.

But then, Massachusetts companies seem to have a thing for abusing trademark law to bully critics who calling public attention to their shortcomings.  We recently won summary judgment against Massachusetts software company Jenzabar which has been dragging some documentary filmmakers through hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation expenses because they had the audacity to use Jenzabar’s name on a web page about Jenzabar.  Jenzabar has appealed.  Stay tuned.

Paul Alan Levy is an attorney for Public Citizen. This is cross-posted from the Consumer Law & Policy Blog.