Running your own business presents many challenges. After creating a unique product or service, you must produce it, market it, sell it, and compete with other businesses. Some companies will try anything to crush the competition. You may wonder how to know if a competitor’s acts have crossed the line from hyper competitive to illegal.
What is unfair competition?
In business, there is a concept known as unfair competition. Unfair competition is designed to protect companies from illegal practices that may occur while doing business. These unfair practices could be perpetrated by an individual or another company. Unfair competition includes several different types of illegal actions that may be pursued as civil cases. These cases usually do not involve criminal charges.
Below are some ways a competitor could be creating an environment of unfair competition.
- Stealing and using another company’s trade secrets
- Using false information to advertise
- Including misleading information on packaging
- Using another company’s logo or other registered trademark
- Showing images of one product and then providing another, known as bait and switch
- Breaking a non-compete agreement
- Libeling another company’s business or reputation
The laws that protect businesses from unfair competition vary from state to state. However, there are federal laws that prohibit many of these practices. If you registered your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you have a legal and exclusive right to use that trademark in the United States. According to the USPTO, you can also establish common law rights by employing the trademark in business use, but filing with the federal government provides you additional protections.
If an employee broke a non-compete agreement, you may have a difficult time pursuing a case. Many judges in Tennessee are reluctant to enforce non-competes because the agreements may restrict business trade. Sometimes, these agreements are also written in an unreasonable way toward the employee. However, if the employee acted in gross violation of the non-compete agreement, you may have a case against him or her.
If you are unsure whether a competitor or former employee acted illegally, you might want to consider reaching out to an attorney experienced in handling business litigation. An attorney can help you determine if your case has merit.