What businesses should know about trade libel in Arizona

It can be bad enough having someone go after your personal reputation. Trade libel is a type of defamation that aims to detract from the reputation of your business and products.

Some other terms for trade libel include commercial disparagement and slander of goods. These claims can be complex, so you may need an experienced lawyer to help you protect the business you have built.

What trade libel is

To qualify as trade libel, a statement must be intentional, false and derogatory. The defendant must make the statement to a third party. You will also need to show that the third party actually believed the statement and that the statement affected your business.

As you can see, a statement will not be trade libel if it is true, or if it is false but not derogatory. The requirement of intention means you may not be able to sue someone who made a false and derogatory statement while believing it to be true.

How trade libel can damage your business

Many types of statements can deter customers from doing business with you. Some examples may include claiming the products are unsafe, alleging fraud or bad customer service or stating the company is going bankrupt or out of business.

When online reviews are trade libel

While there have been some highly publicized cases of companies suing customers for leaving bad reviews online, the outcome of such a case would depend greatly on the specific facts. Some of these reviews really are written in bad faith by competitors or by customers hoping to get compensation for made-up slights. Just as with a regular defamation lawsuit, a key issue is whether the review is true or not.

Sometimes a lawsuit may indeed be the best way to handle the situation; in other instances, a business owner may wish to adopt a different strategy, keeping in mind potential publicity.

Online reviews can reach an unlimited audience and therefore have a far greater impact on your business than the old-fashioned method of spreading rumors. Due to the nature of the internet, such a case may involve not just Arizona law but also federal and international regulations.

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