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In an effort to convince optometrists to become board certified, the American Board of Optometry has engaged in deceptive and false advertising and unfair competition, according to a lawsuit filed by the AOS against the ABO.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, arose from statements the ABO made on it its Web site, http://www.americanboardofoptometry.org/, including use of the ABOVE acronym, which stands for American Board of Optometry Verification of Excellence. Specifically the ABO stated that ABO-certified doctors:
"This misleads the public because it implies training and knowledge that a 'merely licensed' optometrist does not have. So, the fact that the 'ABOVE' message is gone does nothing to mitigate the basis for the lawsuit," added Craig S. Steinberg, OD, JD, general counsel for the AOS who filed the suit.
For these reasons, the AOS is seeking an injunction to permanently cease and desist this type of advertising.
The ABO has discontinued use of the ABOVE acronym, but the AOS remains concerned about the use of similar messages in the future. "Just because it is currently changed or removed from the ABO site does not mean it cannot be placed back on unless there is a permanent injunction," Dr. Miller said.
In fact, the suit states that the AOS' membership will suffer competitive harm, as a result of ABO advertising. At the same time, by making ABO certification a necessity to remain competitive, the ABO will increase the sales of its own products and services, the suit charges.
ABO Chairman David Cockrell, OD, declined to comment on the specifics of the pending litigation. He did, however, deny the allegations against the ABO and stated that the ABO plans to "vigorously defend its position."