The rights of publicity prevent us from using someone else’s name, photograph or any other of their personality or character, in order to make money, unless we have their permission to do so. In simple terms, this means that we cannot steal someone’s identity for commercial use. The ins and outs of the law do differ from state to state in the US, but the main point is always the same. At the heart of this law is the same concept as trademark. A celebrity’s name is their trademark; it is what sets them apart and what encourages people to buy into what they do.
Throughout the years there have been many lawsuits where companies have insisted that their products were endorsed and used by famous celebrities. Others have used celebrities and even voice overs which are obviously trying to mimic or impersonate certain celebrities. Bette Midler was one such actress who successfully sued a large automotive company when they used vocal impersonators on their advertisements.
Another very interesting point about the rights of publicity is that you do not actually have to be living for the rights to apply. Therefore, if you were to use a name or image or likeness of a dead celebrity you could be sued by the family.
Unfair competition is a part of law covering intellectual property that comes into force when someone is trying to attack your company in a dishonest manner. It can also include you then trying to infiltrate similar products onto the market once you have sullied a competitor’s good name.
It is a rather large umbrella term that covers a lot of actions. Most of which can be seen as deceptive business practices. The action is designed to cause the downfall of someone else, hopefully to your commercial benefit or gain. It is the hardest one to prove and to define. It is also more acceptable in certain fields than others. If there is a definite use of deception, fraud or bad faith then this is classed as unfair competition.
Some example of what can be classed as unfair competition, such as claiming that a product will do something for you that it won’t do. Another example is false advertising a product. Another example is the misappropriation of trade secrets this is when you steal a competitor’s secret formula and replicate their recipe often giving it a very similar name and then just undercutting the competitor.
Rumour mongering is even classed as unfair competition, this is where you malign a competitor and target their good name for no other reason than to try and increase your own profits. Unfair competition laws do not only protect companies they also protect individuals. The unfair competition laws are protected by the Commerce Clause which is present in the US constitution and is thus considered with importance. This clause allows congress to take issue on such fraudulent acts.