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"Real Housewives" stars tied up in trademark lawsuit over drink

A Canadian design and marketing company is going after two stars of the reality show "Real Housewives of New Jersey," claiming they and others stole its idea for "blackwater," a new health drink that sounds about as appetizing as, well, a trademark infringement lawsuit.

Chris and Albie Manzo and their uncle Chris Laurita worked with two women to launch "blk.," a drink containing fulvic and humic acid, the same ingredients that give "blackwater" its dark color, during the show's third season. The women, who are sisters, say they developed the drink for their mother after she was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer in 2008. It somehow worked, and a new health drink was born.

The Canadian company, Creative Thinkers, tells an entirely different story. It claims it introduced the drink to the sisters in 2009 and entered into a nondisclosure agreement for "Blackwater Drink Products," and that one sister was allowed to register a trademark on behalf of Creative Thinkers. But the sisters allegedly wanted a bigger share of the company, according to Creative Thinkers.

The "Housewives" stars got involved the following year when they met the sisters at the New York Fancy Foods Show. Creative Thinkers claims the trademark registration was then transferred illegally, and the defendants named in its countersuit used their TV show fame to promote the drink and the sisters' fabricated story of its origins.

Creative Thinkers and BLK Brands, formed by the sisters and the "Housewives" stars, are now suing each other. BLK is suing for trademark infringement and unfair competition, and Creative Thinkers is countersuing for trademark infringement, breach of contract and fiduciary duty, among other charges.

Although blk. is now distributed nationally and internationally, the legal gridlock over the drink indicates a very murky future.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "'Real Housewives' Stars Dragged Into Lawsuit Over Bottled Water," Eriq Gardner, Dec. 16, 2011

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