Commercial disparagement, known more commonly as “trade libel” in Massachusetts, is a defamatory remark about a business that harms its reputation. Your business could lose customers because of defamation, making it important to catch it early on.
How to prove commercial disparagement
Business litigation law outlines criteria for a defamatory remark to qualify as commercial disparagement. The statement must be false. It must have damaged your business, and the perpetrator must have said it with disregard for the truth or with malice. A court will expect you to prove these three points in a trade libel lawsuit.
Products and services
The defamatory statement doesn’t have to be about your business. If the person who made the remark was talking about one of your products or services, you could take legal action for commercial disparagement. When a false remark was made about you as an individual, however, this would fall under defamation law. If someone has suggested that you’ve committed a serious crime, then you may be able to file a defamation lawsuit as well.
It’s not just written statements to a third party that count as trade libel. A statement made orally to a third party counts as a defamatory remark. However, the defendant must have made the statement to a third party.
How to catch defamatory remarks against your business
You could monitor your business’s online presence by regularly checking review sites, social media and search engines for defamatory statements. When someone says something that isn’t true, you could record it in a file dedicated to tracking business libel and respond to them clarifying the situation. Replying to them with the truth may help prevent harm to your business and resolve the problem without you needing to start business litigation. If they continue going after you, or your business suffers losses, you will have the evidence ready.
Another way of protecting your business is to provide disclaimers on your website in a place where they’re easy to see. Disclaimers provide additional information to make certain important facts are clear.
Commercial disparagement threatens businesses of all sizes, although it could have the biggest impact on small businesses because of their limited resources. You may want to monitor your online presence at any point in your business journey to protect its reputation.