Home    Contact Us    Links    Forms   

Unfair Competition

Two additional areas of law often overlap with intellectual property law, Federal Unfair Competition Law and Antitrust law.

Federal unfair competition law finds its base in the Lanham Act, Section 43(a). This section defines actionable commercial injuries for which redress can be sought in a Federal Court. This encompasses a range of improper conduct in the marketplace, including the traditional area of unfair competition, often termed "passing off", that is, one company passing their goods off as those of a competitor, as well as other areas defined by the statute. The conduct prohibited under the act includes the infringement of registered or common law trademarks, trade dress infringement, comprising the imitation of the look of a distinctive product package, a product label or the product itself, presenting false or misleading advertising, making misleading statements as to the nature, quality, source, origin or sponsorship of goods or services, making false claims as to patent protection, and generally the statute prohibits most conduct which tends to confuse or mislead consumers.

Issues related to Federal Antitrust Law may also arise, as there is an inherent tension between the antitrust laws which are designed to prohibit illegal monopolization of a market and Intellectual Property, particularly patents, which confer the right to exclude others from making, using or selling a product covered by a patent claim. While a validly issued patent, being a government grant, cannot create an actionable antitrust violation, securing a patent by fraud, combined with the ability to exert monopoly power in a relevant defined market may constitute an antitrust violation. There are also antitrust issues that arise when a patent covers an industry standard, and where competitors engage in patent pooling or patent sharing agreements.