Unfair Competition

Unfair Competition: Commercial conduct which the law views as unjust, giving rise to a civil claim by those who have been injured by the conduct.

Unfair competition covers a wide range of unlawful, unfair, deceptive or fraudulent acts. Included within the scope of unfair competition is trademark and trade dress infringement, false advertising, trade libel, misappropriation of trade secrets and infringement of the right of publicity.

Most states have broad unfair competition statutes. For instance, California’s unfair competition statute states:

Unfair competition shall mean and include any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising … (California Business and Professions Code §17200).

The federal trademark law also includes an unfair competition provision, Lanham Act Section 43(a) (15 U.S.C. §1125(a)). Section 43(a) provides for a federal cause of action by anyone who is injured or likely to be injured by another’s use in commerce of any word, term, name, symbol or device, or any false designation of origin or false or misleading description or representation of fact which is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception, or in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities or geographic origin of goods or services.