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Differentiating between libel, slander and commercial defamation

On Behalf of | May 5, 2022 | Firm News

In most cases, defamation is applied to public figures. However, this is not always the case. A business or an individual within the company can be defamed. For example, companies can make negative statements about their competitors to show that they are the best choice for their customers.

You might expect brands to bash competitors in advertisements, but this is only allowed if the allegations or rumors are actually true.

How does defamation differ from opinion?

In defamation law, smearing someone is different from stating an opinion. For example, saying that a product could be better with a little more sugar is an opinion. However, if one claims that a product is dangerous for human consumption, it implies that the product is unfit for sale. Therefore, if the allegation is untrue, then it is defamation.

Most media outlets use the word “alleged” when talking about negative aspects of a business or product. This way, they merely report an accusation without claiming that it is their opinion.

How does slander differ from libel?

Slander and libel are types of defamation. Libel is when an untrue and defamatory system is made in writing, whether it be on a blog or website or in print media. On the other hand, slander is an incorrect statement of what is spoken. Slander also covers defamatory statements made in any other medium that records speech, such as television and radio.

What is trade libel?

Trade libel involves situations where a company attacks another company’s services and goods. A company may use the drawbacks of its competitor’s goods to draw customers to its brands. If the competitor can prove that the statement led to the transfer of some of their customers to the defendant’s products, it’s grounds enough to sue for trade libel.

Damages for the two types of defamation are the same if the plaintiff can prove that they suffered damages due to the conduct of the person who made a wrongful or false statement. A court may award monetary damages based on the harm done to the business’s reputation, lost revenue or shame and humiliation to specific individuals in the business setting.

The plaintiff must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the harm was caused directly by the defamatory statement. For example, if an influential figure makes a statement against a brand that pushes the company shares down, the company must prove that the statement actually caused the decline. The monetary award is equivalent to the damage that the court finds was caused by the defamatory comments.