Unfair competition means any fraudulent, deceptive, or dishonest trade practice that is prohibited by statute, regulation, or the common law. It consists of a body of related doctrines that gives rise to several different causes of actions, including (1) actions for infringement of patents, trademarks, or copyrights; (2) actions for wrongful appropriation of trade names, trade dress, and trade secrets; and (3) actions for publication of defamatory, false, or misleading representations.
The law of unfair competition serves five purposes. First, it seeks to protect the economic, intellectual, and creative investments made by businesses in distinguishing themselves and their products. Second, the law seeks to preserve the good will that businesses have established with customers over time. Third, the law seeks to deter businesses from appropriating the good will of their competitors. Fourth, the law seeks to promote clarity and stability by encouraging customers to rely on a merchant’s trade name and reputation when evaluating the quality and prices of rival products. Fifth, the law of unfair competition seeks to increase competition by providing businesses with incentives to offer better goods and services than others in the same field.
Although the law of unfair competition helps protect consumers from injuries caused by deceptive trade practices, the remedies provided to redress such injuries are generally only available to business entities and proprietors. Consumers who are injured by deceptive trade practices normally must avail themselves of the remedies provided by consumer protection laws. Businesses and proprietors, however, may typically avail themselves of two remedies offered by the law of unfair competition, injunctive relief (a court order restraining a competitor from engaging in a particular unlawful action) and money damages (compensation for any losses caused by the unlawful practice). These remedies may be available in both state and federal court, depending on the circumstances surrounding the unlawful act.