Imitation is not a form of flattery when you are a business owner. You have invested plenty of time and money into building your business’s brand. You do not want someone to steal your ideas, logo or brand and profit off your hard work. You do have legal rights that protect your investment. Learn more about passing off laws so you know what to do if someone tries to piggyback on your success.
What is Passing Off?
Passing off tort law is similar to trademark infringement. You can pursue legal action under the passing off tort law if someone tries to steal your name, logo, web content or product whether or not it is trademarked.
Your competitors want an easy way to launch their own business, build their own brand and increase their customer base. They may try to steal your business ideas instead of creating their own fresh content. If a competitor launches any business component that is visually, auditory or conceptually similar to your business, you may pursue action under passing off tort law.
Examples of passing off include competitors who model their logo off yours or imitate your website’s design. They may use your business model to launch their own business or spin your mission statement on their brochures. They may even try to imitate your services so closely that customers think their company is yours. These practices are dishonest and could damage your business.
Additionally, passing off tort law protects you from people who try to use your name to their advantage. For example, an employee leaves your accounting firm and opens a home-based accounting business. He or she contacts several of your clients, uses your name in his or her pitch and offers his or her services. Your customers think he or she is with your company and agree to work with the employee. As the former employee uses your reputation to build his or her new business, your company suffers financial damage. You could suffer brand damage as well if the former employee provides inferior service.
What are Your Legal Options?
You have the right to pursue legal action and recover monetary damages if your company has suffered damages or if someone violates your goodwill. While you cannot file criminal charges against someone for imitating your business practices, passing off tort laws provide legal recourse if someone tries to profit from your business or damage your brand.
The Court typically decides the outcome of passing off tort law cases. The burden of proof falls on you, the plaintiff. Keep detailed records of everything related to your business. Track when you designed your logo, started using your brand name and designed your website. Record every step of the design process for the goods you sell.
If you pursue legal action against someone who violates passing off tort laws, you may not have to show actual proof of those violations. The Court may rule in your favor if the probability of damages exists in the near future. With this guideline, you protect your business before a competitor harms your brand.
Take every hint of goodwill damage seriously. As your name, logo and product built your business into the success it is today, your future success depends on your ability to maintain brand integrity. Do not tolerate competitors who try to piggyback on your success. Instead, understand your legal rights and take action immediately to protect your business, your future and your success. A class action attorney can help you bring the best results possible to your case.