Unfair competition law aims to provide an ethical and fair playing field for competitors. In a sense, any unlawful action in the marketplace, such as patent or copyright infringement, may be viewed as unfair competition. However, the term is often reserved to describe anti-competitive actions related to deception. For example, an element of trademark infringement is a likelihood of consumer confusion. Accordingly, trademark infringement and passing off are types of unfair competition. Other wrongs that fall under this category are false advertising, trade libel, trade dress infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, certain antitrust violations, and tortious interference with business.
Under federal law, unregistered trademarks are protected under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act (“False designations of origin and false descriptions forbidden”), a statute that applies generally. Many of the same remedies available to registered trademarks, such as injunctions and money damages, are available under Section 43(a).