Advertising is a crucial part of ensuring your small business performs well. An extensive part of your budget will probably be set aside to help plan ad campaigns and remain at the forefront of technology when it comes to attracting new customers. In some cases, the budget could extend into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, all of which may be wasted if you fail to understand where the legal lines are drawn within advertising. Consulting your small business attorney before you draft or agree to an advertising campaign, though, can help to prevent potential legal issues.
Possible Legal Pitfalls in Advertising
There are a number of fairly common advertising mistakes, but some are far more troublesome from a legal standpoint such as:
Speaking Negatively About Your Competition:
There are a number of drawbacks to even referencing your competition in your advertising. Attempting to devalue the reputation of someone else can often backfire, opening the door to a variety of legal claims, including defamation, intentional interference with business relations, and other claims, which could result in the expenditure of your time and money. Before you refer to a competitor in your advertising, seek the counsel of a small business attorney to determine whether what you plan to say might expose you to legal liability.
An advertisement does not have to be entirely false in nature to be actionable under the law. In fact, it is still possible to be the subject of a lawsuit if a customer feels your ad creates confusion about your product or service; or, in the case of a competitor, advertising which drives their customers away based on information which is not supported by independent evidence. Misleading statements and product misrepresentation all fit under this heading. Both California and federal law apply in this situation and the laws are complex. Working with a small business attorney will focus a critical eye on public statements from the business and whether there are facts and evidence to support those statements.
Patent, Trademark and Copyright Infringement:
This is a complicated topic filled with nuances both at the state and federal level. However, if a competitor or individual feels that your products, services, or advertising violate their rights to patented, trademarked, or copyrighted property, you could find yourself involved in lengthy and expensive litigation. Something as simple as using a trademarked name without permission, or a photo or music in your advertising or website that is not in the public domain can result in unexpected legal issues.
Benefit of a Small Business Attorney
The process of advertising your products is complex, and it’s fairly easy for a business to get in trouble in a variety of different ways without the benefit of a small business attorney guiding you. A better understanding of good legal practices now can help ensure you minimize any legal difficulties in the future.