Unfair competition refers to all deceptive or wrongful activity that results in financial harm to a business. To the extent certain fraudulent practices injure the purchaser of goods or services, the laws also afford protection to the consumer.
The laws against deceptive, fraudulent, oppressive and bad faith business practices have among its intended goals:
• Protect the investment of an existing business in the establishment of its public identity and products
• Preserve the good will of an existing business and prevent the misappropriation of that good will by another entity
• Bring clarity to the market to enable consumers to identify and compare products of competing companies
• Foster a level playing field for competitors to encourage a development of better products at a lesser price
Among examples of unfair competition are:
• Trademark or patent infringement
• Misappropriation of trade secrets
• Bait and switch advertising
• False advertising
• False claims about the capability of a product or service
• Using similar packaging as that of a competitor
• Making false claims about a competitor’s product or service
To have a civil cause of action for unfair competition, the plaintiff must have suffered actual economic harm that is measurable. Prospective injury is not sufficient. Once the damages are established with reasonable certainty, the plaintiff can recover a dollar amount equivalent to lost profits and may be entitled to injunctive relief, whereby the court will order the defendant to refrain from the specific practices that have been deemed to provide an unfair competitive advantage.