Prof Positive

Page 6 of 7

Price referred questions about the case to his Denver-based attorney, Luke McFarland, who stresses that he and his client have both attempted to work out the dispute. "Chuck called and said, 'I don't want to fight about it. I'll take the site down.' They said, 'Great, but you need to pay our legal fees, which are $8,000.' And Chuck doesn't make that much money; that's more than he would probably make on sales for two years. So he had no choice but to hire local counsel." McFarland says he tried to get Video Professor to drop the matter "but they refused. So I decided Chuck should take his page down anyway, so that if they wanted to fight over essentially nothing, a page that was up for a short time, didn't mention Video Professor by name and hardly made any money, that would be their choice." Under the theory that "a good offense is a good defense," McFarland plans "to file a counterclaim and look at whether Video Professor's claims are deceptive.

"I have hundreds of e-mails," he alleges, "from people saying that they were basically tricked into these subscription programs and have been unable to cancel them -- people calling me, asking, 'Can you help me?'"

"We thought to resolve things for the cost of our attorney fees in light of the willful manner in which Mr. Price proceeded was extremely reasonable," Gindin counters. "But I guess he saw there was an opening for further disparagement and found a local attorney."

The other tussle revolves around Buffalo, New York's Richard Rost, another past Video Professor affiliate whose site can be found at cd.com. A suit was filed against him in January 2005 because "he was disparaging Video Professor on his website, and he was cyber-squatting," Gindin says. "He'd bought three domain names with 'Video Professor' in them, which is trademark infringement, and he was using our copyrighted materials." As she tells it, Rost "sounded so contrite that he was able to convince our attorney that everything was unintentional, and we settled on April 5 for no funds whatsoever." But within weeks, Rost had set up another website that Video Professor considered damaging, and specifics of the confidential settlement agreement turned up on the web page overseen by -- surprise, surprise -- Ben E. Brady. Hence another lawsuit, which Gindin predicts will go to trial in Denver within the next couple of months.

Rost says he doesn't remember telling Brady anything about the settlement; that contradicts comments from Brady and Gindin, who thinks Brady threw Rost "in front of the bus" in a deposition last October. And although he confirms that his website sported "some vague references to 'beware of our competitors,'" he says he "certainly had no intention of saying anything negative about the Video Professor once we settled." He concludes by playing the contrition card to which Gindin alluded: "I'm still trying to settle everything amicably, and I know that as a competitor, I shouldn't have said anything negative about them in the first place. I want to get along with Video Professor, because they're a very big company and I'm a very small company. I want to kiss and make up."

Predictably, Gindin remains resolutely unpuckered. The message is clear: Don't mess with the Professor.

In the meantime, Scherer is looking to a future he considers to be practically blinding. The amount of people who are utterly clueless about computers and have no resource to get informed other than Video Professor's 800 number or website would seem to be shrinking fast, but he's confident there are plenty of tech-challenged people he hasn't reached thus far. Indeed, the latest Video Professor infomercial finds Scherer at a makeshift computer exposition set up at Park Meadows mall, and the vast majority of participants with whom he speaks seem naive enough to believe that pushing the "tab" button would order them a diet soft drink.

Nevertheless, Video Professor is constantly looking at ways to expand its market. Scherer expects to soon branch into languages other than English, which may explain why VP's attorneys put the legal kibosh on a company that did business as Spanish Video Professor. And he expects that online lesson delivery, which is a fairly small part of the picture right now, will experience a swift growth spurt. "The Internet is where we're heading," he says. "Overseas, many people may see our commercials, but they can't call our 800 number. But on the Internet, they can all get to us."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts