The lawsuit, filed in August 2016, accused the defendants — which include Gedela and OMICS Group, iMedPub, and Conference Series — of deceptive business practices related to journal publishing and scientific conferences. The FTC alleged the defendants used the names of prominent researchers to draw conference attendees, even though the researchers had not agreed to participate; misled readers about whether articles had been peer reviewed; failed to provide authors with transparent information about publishing fees prior to submission; and presented misleading “impact factors” for journals.
On Sept. 29, Judge Gloria Navarro of the US District Court for the District of Nevada, wrote that evidence submitted by the FTC “is sufficient to support a preliminary conclusion that Defendants made misrepresentations regarding their journal publishing” and conferences, and:
Absent such an injunction, the Court finds it likely that Defendants will continue to engage in deceptive practices.
Navarro also denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The companies will still be able to publish journals and run events. Gregory Ashe, a senior attorney for the FTC’s division of financial practices, told Retraction Watch that the lawsuit and judge’s order were not an attempt to regulate the journals or conferences themselves:
We want to make clear that this has nothing to do with the content. Nothing in this order goes to what they can or can’t publish in terms of content. This is about how they are soliciting would-be academics to publish in their journals.
Ashe said that, with the preliminary injunction in place, the defendants:
can’t continue making the types of misrepresentations we’ve alleged in our complaint. They can’t misrepresent the nature of their peer review. They can’t misrepresent specific individuals as being associated with their journals and conferences. They can’t misrepresent impact factors.
Gedela and an attorney for OMICS did not immediately respond to our request for comment via email. [See update at end.] A phone operator at OMICS’s Americas office told us to call back Nov. 27 (Nov. 23 is a major U.S. holiday).
The likelihood of success
Ashe said that the preliminary injunction is the first step to getting a permanent order to stop the allegedly deceptive business practices:
We believe it’s likely we’ll win at trial, so we’re optimistic.
Likelihood of success at trial is usually one of several factors in a court’s decision to issue a preliminary injunction or not.
Ashe added that in order to enforce the preliminary injunction, the FTC will have to file contempt of court motions in the event it discovers violations. To do so, he said the FTC would “continue to be reliant on the academic consumer notifying us there’s still a problem going on.”
Ashe said this was the only lawsuit the FTC has filed against an academic publisher, but that he “can’t confirm or deny” the existence of investigations into other publishers.
However, he said the lawsuit and preliminary injunction was a warning to any bad actors:
This is certainly our message to the academic world that, we are monitoring and on the lookout for predatory publishers.
David Korzenik, an attorney at New York firm Miller Korzenik Sommers who has defended academic publishers in First Amendment cases, told us that one part of the order, which states that the defendants cannot misrepresent “the nature, credibility, legitimacy, or reputation of any journal or other publication” was “a little fuzzy.” However, he said:
By and large, I don’t think the terms of the injunction are improper or impermissibly vague.
Update 2200 UTC 11/27/2017: Kishore Vattikoti, Senior Legal Counsel for OMICS International, sent us this reply via email on Nov. 23:
FTC made allegations based on the “fake news”. It’s over two years and they haven’t able to prove any of the allegations. In my opinion FTC team is trying their level best to support their stand as it became a prestige issue for them.
We are also continuously supporting FTC in providing the necessary information/documentation as requested by them in various forms from time to time.
We are pretty sure; FTC will not be able to prove any of the allegations against us. Moreover, the entire scientific community of the world is extending their support to us. Post FTC’s allegations, we are getting double number of articles to process in our journals compared to previous years from all over the world (including USA).
We have great respect towards United States Federal system and Courts; we look forward for a favorable judgment. We have been providing all the requisite documentation to the court.
The intention behind Court’s order of Preliminary Injunction, is to stop misrepresentation and to get the required information from us, but not to halt any of our operations in the United States.
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