Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
This article has been written and reviewed for legal accuracy, clarity, and style by FindLaw’s team of legal writers and attorneys and in accordance with our editorial standards.
The last updated date refers to the last time this article was reviewed by FindLaw or one of our contributing authors. We make every effort to keep our articles updated. For information regarding a specific legal issue affecting you, please contact an attorney in your area.
It takes a lot of work to run any organization, and a good reputation is especially important for the success of a small business. For this reason, negative comments from a customer or another company can be very detrimental to your business. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the comments, you may be able to file a trade libel claim against the person or business that made the comments about your business. Trade libel falls under the general umbrella of defamation and is defined as defamatory statements about the quality of a business's services or products.
This article will provide you with a basic definition of defamation as well as a review of the elements that a plaintiff must prove in order to win a trade libel lawsuit.
What Is Defamation?
Defamation is a type of tort that occurs when a person makes false statements that are damaging to a party's reputation. Defamation can come in two forms: libel and slander. Generally speaking, a defamatory statement is classified as libel when it is written, and it is classified as slander when it is spoken. Whether it is libel or slander, there are basic elements that a plaintiff must show to be successful in a defamation claim:
- A person made a statement that was published;
- The statement was not true;
- The statement caused an injury to the plaintiff; and
- The statement was not in a privileged category.
This is the general definition of defamation. However, each state may have variations on the elements that constitute a defamation claim, so it's important to check the laws of your particular state. It's important to note that "published" does not necessarily mean written in a magazine or book; it simply means that the statement was made to a third party.
Elements of Trade Libel
Trade libel is a type of defamation that is specific to businesses. The elements of a trade libel case are very similar to the elements of general defamation, but there are some differences. The elements of a trade libel case are as follows:
- A defendant made a false statement about the quality of the plaintiff's products or services;
- The statement was published; and
- The plaintiff suffered monetary loss or harm as a result of the statement.
It's important to break down the elements a little further to understand exactly what constitutes trade libel. First of all, the statement in question must be false. If the statement is true, that provides an absolute defense to the trade libel case. In addition, the statement must be a statement of fact, not simply an opinion. The definition of published is the same as a general defamation claim -- it simply has to be communicated to a third party. Finally, the plaintiff must show that his or her business suffered monetary harm as a result of the defendant's statement.
Getting Legal Help
If someone has made false statements about your business that you believe have negatively affected your business and you're wondering if it amounts to trade libel, you should contact a local business and commercial attorney to discuss your options.
For more information and resources related to this topic, you can visit FindLaw's section on Business Torts.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified business attorney to help you navigate your business's legal and regulatory landscape.