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Fireclean LLC Sues George Fennell And Steel Shield Technologies In Federal Court Alleging False Advertising

Fireclean is on a tear. Yesterday, we told you that they have sued Andrew Tuohy and Everett Baker for Defamation. We also told you there would be more, and here it is, the next one.

It seems George Fennell owns a company named Steel Shield Technologies which makes a firearms lubricant called Weapon Shield. According to the suit, George Fennell is a competitor of Fireclean and relies heavily on Facebook to promote his brand.

Fireclean alleges defamation by Fennell and his company. They also say Fennell referred to their product as “Pam”, “Wesson Oil”, “Criso” and other oils in videos and social media posts they claim were meant to discredit their lubricant. In another instance Fireclean offers, Fennell claimed that “My problem is it will cost someone their life someday.”

Specifically, Fireclean claims that Fennell violated the Lanham Act. They are citing the misrepresentation clause (USC §1125a (1)(B)) and not the trademark portion of the law.

15 U.S.C. § 1125 – False designations of origin, false descriptions, and dilution forbidden

(a) Civil action

(1) Any person who, on or in connection with any goods or services, or any container for goods, uses in commerce any word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof, or any false designation of origin, false or misleading description of fact, or false or misleading representation of fact, which—

(A) is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person, or as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of his or her goods, services, or commercial activities by another person, or
(B) in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another person’s goods, services, or commercial activities,

shall be liable in a civil action by any person who believes that he or she is or is likely to be damaged by such act.

By now you are asking yourself how this suit might be related to the blogger suit we discussed yesterday. Remember we said that Fennell is quite active on Facebook? Well, on January 14th, 2016, Fennell posted this message to Facebook. The “he” Fennell is initially referring to is Andrew Tuohy, which becomes clear in context later in the post.

Interesting enough, although that post was available yesterday (the same day Fennell was served by the court for this suit), it is now missing.

Feel free to read the entire complaint here: Fireclean LLC v Fennell Like the other suit, it is quite extensive and technical in nature as Fireclean makes its case that it is not any of the materials they claim Fennell says they are.

Once again, Fireclean lays out why the case should be tried in Federal Court of Eastern Virginia. They also demand a jury trial as well as compensatory damages, presumed damages for defamation, punitive damages in addition to court costs and attorney’s fees.

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78 Responses to “Fireclean LLC Sues George Fennell And Steel Shield Technologies In Federal Court Alleging False Advertising”

  1. BAP45 says:

    Man this thing is really getting going

  2. Paul McCain says:

    What this lawsuit tells me is FireClean is really in a world of hurt and is now trying to all they can to salvage their livelihoods. I wonder if FireClean LLC will even survive all these lawsuits, even if they “win.”

    It may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory.

    • Roy says:

      They will not survive these cases at all. If they win (somehow) and prove that these parties were knowingly false or reckless to the truth there still isn’t any money for them to win. And if the statements weren’t true it would be so much cheaper for them to run some adds or make a video showing what is really in it.

      Like I don’t know a head to head endurance test on 2 pistols one cleaned with cooking oil the other with fireclean or side by side long term protection. Or just say what it is that makes their veg oil so great in real terms. But they are going to so much trouble not to win a PR campaign, which means that the real difference between cooking oil and fireclean is not much

      • Andrew says:

        There is a lot more going on here then simply getting cash…you need to look at their business operations as a whole.

        Without going to deep into a legal analysis here, to put it simply, Company is asserting that it has suffered harm to its reputation, resulting in a negative economic impact.

        A Company in this situation, hypothetically, would most likely have issues meeting its financial obligations to its suppliers, meeting soft-business costs (i.e. insurance etc), and if it were leasing space for operations – rent to Landlord. If we were to simply look at this from a landlord/tenant perspective, if Company didn’t pay rent, a landlord/tenant action would be brought in the form of a default or rent demand. In order for Landlord to collect 100 cents on the dollar, instead of terminating tenant, referring the matter to collections counsel and losing 1/3 to attorney’s fees, they might be willing to toll any default or court action pending the outcome of Company’s litigation against Defendant. It’s important to keep in mind that under most commercial lease agreements, there is a personal guaranty executed by Company’s principal.

        A judgment in Company’s favor, could shift liability for Company’s arrearages to Defendant.

        So again, there is so much more going on here than simply filing suit and wining some cash.

        • Paul McCain says:

          That’s interesting. No idea how the blogging kid has enough money to sustain any damages imposed on him, let along pay to defend himself. SteelShield may, I don’t know.

      • Stephen Hubert says:

        They (FireClean) refused to respond to my questions about corrosion/rust prevention long before any of this hit the fan. The tests that equated their product to cooking oils also made specific comments on the ineffectiveness of these types of oils against corrosion/rust prevention. I really liked the oil for firearm lubrication, but those two facts combined were all the validation I needed…

  3. Joglee says:

    Sue everyone!!!!!!!!!

  4. iceman says:

    Beautiful thing about the internet, you can say whatever you want. However, sometimes what you say may land you in court.

    • Tehisguy says:

      You can say things. He could of said things that where of personal opinion but he (pun intended) put fireclean on blast and damaged their reputation. Either right or wrong, didnt do it with any grace. He full on started a war regarding this unimportant product.

    • txJM says:

      That doesn’t sound like a people protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America…

  5. Bobby says:

    I bet Fireclean’s patent is about to expire so everyone will know what it is anyway so why not sue those whom messed you up in court and be forced to reveal the composition there?

    • Jambo says:

      My understanding is that patents were supposed to reveal what an invention was and then protect the inventor by giving them a time-limited monopoly as a trade-off for the public knowing something new. If something is somehow both patented and secret, that sounds like the patent system is very broken.

    • Maskirovka says:

      http://www.scribd.com/doc/280815166/FireCLEAN-Oil-Patent

      I’m not a patent expert, but it looks like they applied to patent any product use of plant based oils to either lubricate or clean firearms… including any product with 25% or greater plant oil content and with a smoke point of 200 degrees F or higher.

    • Sampson says:

      Looking at PAIR, the application hasn’t yet received an examination.

      • Bill says:

        If the patent application I saw was from Fireclean it was so broad in scope it will be rejected. It was months ago when I read it and I don’t feel like looking for it.

        And yes a patent has to clearly disclose what the product is in order to protect intellectual property, not only of Fireclean but anyone else who puts out like products.

        http://www.inventionresource.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=37

        Of note Froglube hasn’t jumped on the sue anyone band wagon.

        • Actually says:

          Whether their product is patented or not is not germane to the case.

          • Bill says:

            No, but as I keep saying you cannot tell a judge what something IS NOT without clearly explaining what something IS. Translation: Fireclean will have to divulge what exactly their formula is.

            Touhy never said it was Crisco.

            He said according to the tests it appears similar to rapeseed or canola oil.

            Fireclean has repeatedly said it is a blend of vegetable oils.

            When Fireclean is forced to disclose it is one, or both of those, case over.

            And a quote from the article,
            “As I have continued to state since forming an opinion on the product, FireClean works very well as a lubricant for the AR-15. I chose it for the LuckyGunner 40,000 round ammo test because I had used it with good results – I was provided with samples early in 2012 – and wanted to give a fledgling company a chance in a crowded field. I don’t regret that decision – the lubricant worked well for the test. The FireClean folks must have felt the same way, because my work on that test is in almost every sales pitch they’ve made about their product.”

  6. Harm Uden says:

    If Fireclean wins. This could mean a lot of the critical content on youtube, this blog and others will go away. All due to fear of lawsuit and the cost that comes with it. Not just financial cost but personal, and future possibilities.

    • SSD says:

      No, you just have to do it properly.

      • Paul McCain says:

        Bingo….

        I suspect they will have a much harder job winning against Steel Shield than against the bloggers.

        Who knows?

        I doubt anyone is going to come out of this as a “winner.”

        There is now the distinct odor of desperation in FireClean’s action.

        And I find it rather telling that Larry Vickers has dropped any and all references to FireClean.

        • SSD says:

          I don’t see any desperation. I’m watching calculated action.

          • PPGMD says:

            Calculated to run themselves out of business maybe. With exception of here, the comments on these lawsuits are overwhelming against Fireclean.

            Canolagate was all but forgotten until they filed the lawsuit. Not only do they have Canolagate to deal with they have the negative reputation of suing independent internet bloggers, and now a competitor.

            By filing this lawsuit Fireclean has done more to harm their business than Canolagate ever could.

            • SSD says:

              I don’t believe that is so. Fireclean claims the damage was done to their reputation when the multiple articles were published. Anyone who was going to stop using their product did it back then when they read the articles. All they are doing now is working to establish in court that the articles were false and to prevent the parties they are suing from making further statements that will hurt their business. We have a civil court system for precisely these reasons.

              • PPGMD says:

                I disagree, this will have a much more widespread impact to their business. They could’ve handled this much better in a positive light, by showing that their product works, but they didn’t. .

                And proving that the allegations are false, I don’t think it is nearly as one sided as you do. I think it is equally as likely that Vuuperwapen will prevail.

                George Fennel might lose, but he can point to Vuuperwapen Blog for blame when it comes to damages. As they had a much wider spread.

                IMO neither case will fix their public relations nightmare that they now have on their hands. Visit their Facebook, many of the comments are negative. Visit other sites reporting on this, overwhelmingly negative. Win or lose, Fireclean is hurting themselves with these court cases.

                • SSD says:

                  Go up and read the post I shared in the story from January 14 where George Fennell takes credit for turning Andrew Tuohy onto the type of testing used and Fireclean.

                  • Actually says:

                    Yes, I did see that and am wondering why they didn’t include him in the first suit against Tuohy. It certainly indicates conspiracy.

        • Joshz says:

          I would like to know why he hasn’t mentioned Fireclean as well. And i’m a fan of the LAV. The only thing i could think of is he doesn’t want to deal with the BS that goes along with posting about FC.

          • SSD says:

            I’d say that you have a valid viewpoint. Hell, I’ve written about it and been accused of taking Fireclean’s side because some of my advertisers may sell it. Hell, for all I know, they may sell Weapon Shield as well.

            • Don't get mad at me says:

              You do defend them quite a bit in all of the previous postings.

              Scroll down, and also see a couple months ago postings.

              Don’t get all touchy, just respectfully pointing it out.

              • SSD says:

                You seem to be confusing standing up for doing the right thing with defending Fireclean. I could absolutely care less about Fireclean. However, as I look at the information being presented by Fireclean in their lawsuit, I can see where they’re coming from.

                In fact, that screenshot that I posted above looks pretty bad to me.

      • Roy says:

        If one was a youtube reviewer, why would you take the time to “do it properly” it is so much easier to only print or post favorable reviews and just decline to review anything you find negative. Why would you bother to risk getting sued if someone doesn’t like what you said? Or you could do like some sites and play it super safe and just repeat ad copy on whatever product your being paid to shill for.

        • SSD says:

          I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here. Perhaps you should start your own YouTube channel and conduct only negative reviews.

          • Roy says:

            ooh Touchy!

            • SSD says:

              You’re the guy who is worried about a hypothetical. People aren’t getting sued for negative reviews, they are being sued for allegedly making false claims.

              • Roy says:

                ….do you think there is a difference? e.g. I found this gun is unreliable with this ammo= false claim or reporting the findings of my review?

                • SSD says:

                  If you can’t figure out how to say that without opening yourself up to lawsuits, stay out of the YouTube review game.

                  While I don’t do reviews, I’ve been writing about this industry for eight years. I’ve had the occassional contact from lawyers with clients that aren’t happy about something I’ve said. So far, in each case, I haven’t been sued because I had the right data to support my position.

              • Bill says:

                Fireclean was taken to task for making false claims and they are suing. Touhy credited labs and people that did the tests, Fireclean made fantastical claims about their product. Per Firecleans own admission it is vegetable oil, so how exactly will they refute the article that says it is vegetable oil? The articles are still up feel free to read them.

  7. Mike Nomad says:

    I didn’t have to read very far to see Fireclean screw themselves (in writing)…

    35: Contradictory statement.

    39: Claim not supported.

    45 (Money Shot): Quote shows that plaintiff’s claims re: defendant’s statements and intent are false. Excellent grounds for a counter-suit.

    • Mike Nomad says:

      Sorry, those numbers are the document line/item (?) numbers, not page numbers. The quote is near the top of page 10.

    • Andrew says:

      Para 35 is not contradictory, simply stating that, at the date of filing, Fireclean is not AWARE of any instances of its product polymerizing “in the bottle.” It goes on to say that, currently, the oldest bottle is 4 yrs old, and none of those have polymerized and they believe it will take much longer than 4 yrs, but they can’t state it for certain as no bottle is older than 4 years.

      Para 39 is supported….look at Para 37…the term “Petro Lube” is defined here, and is then referenced in Para 39 —-(Good lesson here, in legal documents, every letter, punctuation, word, even the 2 & 3 letters ones like “if” “to” “or” “and”, have a purpose. Capitalized terms refer to defined terms within the document, or another document if stated [usually at the end or beginging ‘all capitalized terms herein shall have the same meaning set forth in document x’])

      Para 45 – I’m not sure what you are getting at here, maybe the 1 year portion, but again, Para 35 wasn’t making a representation, it was simply stating what Fireclean was aware of.

      • Mike Nomad says:

        You are right about 35. I didn’t read the last sentence correctly (missing “believes that…”), and instead read it as an absolute, declarative statement.

        Regarding 37-39… Crisco, etc. are indeed proper terms, and probably trademarked. And I’m sure their formulations are patented (probably the strongest reason why, outright Fireclean =/= Crisco, etc.)…

        What leads me to say that 39 is not supported (a better way to say that would have been, “Their claim is not supported.”) is that I see nothing in Exhibit B that indicates any baselines where established across the products tested to rule out variance(s) in product batches, or what type of FTIR was done.

        Perhaps the latter is not necessary, but my understanding is that some types are better than others in a given application. In this case, three samples tested, and no two are the same. This idea shows up later in 115 and 116.

        If the testing results are so critical, why mention 30 (Wesson oil) which is the foundation of the quote in 45, but then not include Wesson in the testing, as part of 38?

        W/R/T 45, I was fixating on the highlighted sections in the quote, where Fennell does not indicate that Fireclean = Wesson Oil blah blah. Rather, Fennell said Fireclean is LIKE Wesson Oil blah blah. Which (along with 71 & 72) is clearly supported by 37 & 38.

        To me, all this looks like Fireclean is pissed off, lashing out, and thrashing around. In the filing, they are as guilty of playing as fast and loose with language as they accuse Fireclean of doing.

        If Fireclean wants to make a claim against Fennell of false advertising (Fennell’s is the best, Fireclean is poop), I think their performance tests have them on pretty solid ground.

  8. ragnar says:

    I sure hope FireClean doesn’t sue me for supporting FireClean.

    • internet tough guy says:

      They might…. be careful bro.

      So glad Fireclean has found an alternate revenue stream. Throwing around lawsuits.

      So much for being two plucky small business guys.

      I wont say specifically what I think of Fireclean because I’m now terrified of being drawn into court.

  9. FrontDeskFocus says:

    How can Fireclean prove that they’re losing money because of the statements of either bloggers or this company (or both), and not because their product is garbage?

    I don’t believe the Internet reach of Fennel or Tuohy is farther than that of Vickers or any of the other “names” promoting Fireclean…so at what point can the distinction be made that “customer A bought Fireclean because Vickers did a video, but customer B didn’t buy Fireclean because of spectral analysis comparing it to Crisco?”

    • SSD says:

      Timing.

      • FrontDeskFocus says:

        Ok, maybe…but without a widespread survey of the target audience in a specific timeframe, the internet has too much information and too many concurrent discussions to pin down a rise or drop in sales to one particular factor.

        By the time Tuohy’s article came out, Fireclean was already old enough that the “shiny kit” honeymoon period was over, and enough people had had time to use the product in varied environments and over long timeframes. Those are precisely the same conditions where chinks in armor are discovered, and problems become known and widespread enough to not be simple coincidences or isolated incidents.

        • SSD says:

          If they can show a $25k per month decline in revenue after the articles came out, it won’t be hard to make the case to a jury.

      • ThatBlueFalcon says:

        A good lawyer could knock that down in a heartbeat. Advertising is notoriously difficult to track the effect of, and it would be very easy to counter-claim that the advertising wasn’t good or that there were rushes to buy the product and then people stopped buying or any number of other reasons.

        It is very, very hard to accurately track reach and depth of advertising or internet content, despite what Facebook will tell you if they give you money. I worked PR for years and it was a major challenge that we faced then and now.

        We can track numbers, but numbers do not equal causation or correlation.

        • SSD says:

          Every knucklehead that goes online and says that he won’t buy Fireclean because it’s canola oil or Crisco or some other material they read on a blog is evidence supporting Fireclean’s case.

          • ThatBlueFalcon says:

            Hardly. Saying something and doing something are two entirely different things.

            I could say “I’ll never read SSD again!” but if I continue to read SSD, and you can prove it by IP address, then how valid is that evidence?

            This used to cause all sorts of headaches for us – initial rollout of something would prompt a huge wave of support, which bolstered our funding and made us look good, but when we analyzed the data very few people actually seemed to follow up on their promises.

  10. Ray says:

    Why do many of you hate Fireclean? I have never seen so many people angry at a cleaning product. If you don’t like it don’t use it but why get so upset at a company trying to protect their reputation ? Even if the stuff was just crisco if it works as well as advertised why do you care ?

    • SSD says:

      Because they believe that an independently wealthy hobby blogger is David to the massive two-man weapons lube conglomerate which acts as a corporate Goliath that makes a profit (egad) and must be brought to heel.

      • Paul Zuk says:

        Wow, SSD – “an independently wealthy hobby blogger”…

        Kinda you showed us your POV here with that statement, buddy. Seems like you do envy Andrew. And as you’re not IRS and can’t know how wealthy (or poor) he really is it looks that his balls and integrity is what you can’t comprehend.

        He’s a stand up guy. And how about you?

        • Actually says:

          Actually, the guy at SSD has a great reputation. Maybe you should tell everyone how Eric isn’t a stand up guy.

          As for Andrew Tuohy coming from a wealthy family, it’s very well known. It’s not something he hides, if you know anything about him. If you doubt it, go take a look at his and his family’s aircraft holdings. It can be searched by anyone on the FAA database. They’ve got got some cash wrapped up in small aircraft. That isn’t something poor college students indulge in.

          • Dev says:

            That makes all the people who help fund for his defence look even more stupid considering he’s more than capable of paying for his own mistakes.

        • James says:

          Wow dude, SSD has one of the best reputations for being honest, reliable and squared away.

          I remember being told something once about “better to stay silent and people think your dumb than open your mouth and erase all doubt”

      • Sierra5 says:

        There’s ample blame to go around. People found out they paid a premium price for a vegetable based gun oil and decided that’s a bad thing. Then, add a piece of really flawed celebrity video endorsement coupled with an even worse excuse and let the games begin. Whether the product works as advertised starts to become irrelevant. There will be no winners here.

        • Actually says:

          Your comment is a great example of why FIREclean was right to sue. Each of the ideas you have mentioned were introduced by Touhy and his co-conspirator.

          • BobW says:

            How is it libel and/pr slander if someone shows me I overpaid for something and I decide not to buy it anymore for that reason?

            • Dev says:

              Correct me if i’m wrong but i’ve yet to seen actual proof and existence of those so-called independent lab tests he has conducted.

              • SSD says:

                Tuohy has shared a few images depicting graphs that he claims came from testing. Baker was quite open about his stab at the testing.

                However, Tuohy has not disclosed the lab or PhD who supposedly conducted the tests he used but at this point it doesn’t matter. He’ll have to reveal because of this case.

  11. LawDog says:

    So I can predict the future…. Still don see this ending well for fireclean.

    • SSD says:

      Who knows. It may come down to deeper pockets. We don’t hear how the beast majority of these things pan out anyway.

      • AlexC says:

        This. I would not be surprised if this gets settled out of court, but only time will tell.

  12. Disco says:

    Gun lube.

    Serious Business

  13. Greg says:

    So this is the Fireclean nuclear option? Sue everyone!

    • SSD says:

      I expect more suits as discovery uncovers additional targets of opportunity.

    • internet tough guy says:

      Yeah it’s super honorable. Makes me really wanna put money in their pockets so they can run around bankrupting people for talking shit about their stupid product.

  14. Sierra5 says:

    Whether FC is vindicated in court on this issue or not, they will have lost where it counts. This is how not to handle a PR train wreck.

  15. gregk says:

    Is there anything dumber than weapon lube marketing?

    I’ve been in the gun-n-gear game for about 15 years now, and every couple of years, some tiny guys in a garage like to pop up and claim they’ve somehow cooked up the be-all/end-all lubricant. They brand it, and they do dog and pony show tests, and they swear up and down that they’ve innovated.

    It’s all so much witchcraft and branding and voodoo. Mobile 1 works as a lube for christ sakes, and rarely does anyone ever collect data that definitively proves one lubricant is better than another lubricant across any aspect of performance. Ohh, sure – tests are done, but than we debate the validity of the tests to the point that you wonder why anyone goes through all this rigamarole.

    The best part is – people get worked up about it! They get this brand tribe warrior mindset where they must defend their choice/knowledge of the lube from those dumb heathens!

    This thing, the whole bloody thing, is so stupid.