Arthur R. Lehman, L.L.C.

What is unfair competition?

When consumers in New York buy a product, they expect it to be what the product purports to be and provide the service it advertised it would provide. In addition to this, many residents buy a specific product because they are loyal to it or they expect a certain standard of quality from the product. But what happens if the product fails to live up to expectations because it was not even that product in the first place? Many New York residents may be wondering if this is even possible. And the answer is that yes it is.

This behavior falls under unfair competition. Many people may hold the misconception that unfair competition deals with monopolies and companies competing with one another but in reality it covers torts that are meant to confuse consumers about the source of the product, which is unfair competition, or other forms of deceptive trade practices outlined below.

False advertising, bait and switch selling tactics, theft of trade secrets, false representation of goods and services and unauthorized substitution of one brand of goods for another are all examples of unfair competition. All these actions injure consumers because they confuse the customer about the product or service they are procuring. Trademark infringement and misappropriation are often the leading form of unfair competition.

State common law generally covers unfair competition, even though federal law may apply if the case falls under copyright, trademarks and false advertising. The Federal Trade Commission is one mechanism through which Congress attempted to protect consumers from unfair trade practices and also other companies whose rights are infringed indirectly through these practices.

What constitutes unfair depends on each individual situation and varies within the context of the business and the action being examined. The facts of each case must be examined in order to determine if unfair competition exists and those who think they might be a victim to it should consider consulting an experienced attorney.

Source: Legal Information Institute, "Unfair competition," Accessed on Oct. 27, 2015

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