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Judge Alice M. Batchelder of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wants Procter & Gamble Co. and its rival in the cleanser market, Amway, to knock it off. Nothing the courts can do “will end the hatred these two corporate giants harbor for each other,” she predicted in an Oct. 8 opinion, so they may as well conserve judicial resources. P&G blames Amway for spreading an urban myth that’s eluded the butterfly nets for decades, namely that consumers should boycott P&G products because the company finances devil worship. P&G has prevailed against some Amway distributors in suits for rumor-mongering, but has had its suits against the company itself thrown out. Before Batchelder’s panel was an Amway allegation that P&G, conspiring with a Web site editor, tried to evade defamation laws by posting the text of one of its complaints on the Internet. The trial court threw that out. Batchelder’s panel upheld the summary judgment, saying it saw no evidence of a conspiracy. Besides, the complaint was a public document whose publication is protected under Michigan’s fair reporting privilege. “Recitation of the extensive and hate-filled history between P&G and Amway would take a writing as long as both the Old and New Testaments,” observed Batchelder. “Although each side would likely argue, if given the chance, that its opponent was in the garden advising the serpent when Eve took her first bite of the apple, for our purposes we need only go back to the 1970s and Satan’s rumored more recent activity with soap products.”

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