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Articles Posted in Unfair Business Practices

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top pic rent a car_1.jpgIf you have used an online travel reservation service to book a car rental (e.g. Priceline, Orbitz), pre-paid the reservation, and were charged extra fees and taxes, even though you didn’t agree to extra services, you may have a claim for breach of contract.

Many times an online service company will include fees and taxes as part of the reservation price. If these fees and taxes are actually charged to your credit card (versus just an estimate), the terms and conditions of the particular travel reservation service will govern whether you need to pay any fees and taxes at the reservation counter.

One travel reservation service in particular specifies that once the customer pays taxes and fees to the reservation service, any taxes and fees charged to the customer by the car rental company should be paid by the travel reservation service.

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What legal options do I have in Georgia when a person or business has been using my name, trade dress, brand, trademark, or logo for a long period of time without my knowledge? This is a question that we often hear from our business clients.

stock-photo-man-with-questions-symbol-on-a-white-background-121335376.jpgIn Georgia, the equitable doctrine of laches can be applied to bar claims for relief that the plaintiff has delayed brining or that fall outside of the applicable statute of limitations period. With respect to trademark infringement and unfair competition claims, however, neither the Lanham Act nor its state law counterpart found in the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (UDTPA) contain specified limitations periods from which to judge which statute of limitations applies: the two-year statute of limitations period applied by Georgia courts to fill in statute of limitations where the legislature did not provide one (like in employment discrimination claims for relief) found in O.C.G.A. § 9-3-22; or the four-year statute of limitations governing injuries to personalty found in O.C.G.A. § 9-3-31. Another confusing aspect of claims for relief from infringement or unfair competition concern the legal theory to apply to determine when to begin measuring delay in some cases. Fortunately, there are some Georgia cases that shed light on both of these concerns.

The 11th Circuit first grappled with the issue of laches when a trademark owner has not learned of the infringement until after the statute of limitations has run on a claim for damages in 1997 when it decided Kason Industries, Inc. v. Component Hardware Corp., 120 F.3d 1199, 1203 (11th Cir.1997). In that case, the court borrowed from the closest analogous state law and held that the four-year period applicable to similar causes of action under Georgia’s UDTPA governs the inquiry in Lanham Act cases. Kason, at 1206.

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What can I do when my business relationship with another goes sour through no fault of my own? This is a question that many of our clients ask us.

Fortunately, there are at least two actionable tort claims available in Georgia for a plaintiff who has been injured by wrongful interference with a business relationship: tortious interference with contractual rights and tortious interference with business relations.

stock-photo-businessman-at-the-start-of-his-journey-making-difficult-decision-which-way-to-go-loose-artistic-85446772.jpgThese two distinct yet related torts require a plaintiff to show four common elements: that the defendant (1) acted improperly and without privilege, (2) acted purposefully and with malice with the intent to injure, (3) induced a third party or parties not to enter into or continue a business relationship with the plaintiff; and (4) for which the plaintiff suffered some financial injury. Chaney v. Harrison & Lynam, LLC, 308 Ga. App. 808, (2011); Gordon Document Products, Inc. v. Service Technologies, Inc., 308 Ga. App. 445 (2011). In Georgia, without privilege means that the defendant must be a stranger to the contract and the underlying business in order to be liable. See Carey Station Village Home Owners Ass’n, Inc. v. Carey Station Village, Inc., 268 Ga. App. 461 (2004) (homeowners association not stranger to contract between developer and certain purchasers of subdivision lots).

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A “trademark” functions as an identifier of goods or services, while a “trade name” primarily identifies the owner or operator of a business and may also be used to identify the goods handled by such owner. Stuart Enterprises Int’l, Inc. v. Peykan, Inc., 252 Ga. App. 231 (2001).

A person may acquire a trade name through long and extensive use of the name or through registering a business with the Georgia Secretary of State. However, if a person fails to register a trade name previously acquired, he will not be deprived of using the trade name if someone else does register the name. Giant Mart Corp. v. Giant Discount Foods, Inc., 247 Ga. 775 (1981); Pearl Optical, Inc. v. Pearle Optical of Ga., Inc., 218 Ga. 701 (1963).

There are numerous sources of protection for someone else using your trade name in the course of business. The Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (discussed in a previous post) is one of them. Other forms of protection come from Georgia common law.

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How can I protect my rights and reputation from deceptive business practices? What can I do to stop a business from wrongfully profiting off of my good will? These are questions our business clients frequently ask us.

stock_image_study-table-learn-quesitons.jpgWhat To Do If Someone Has Been Profiting From Your Brand Without Your Consent.

Monetary and injunctive relief may be sought under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), which generally proscribes “false designations of origin and false descriptions” of goods or services. U.S.C. § 1125(a). Claims available under § 43(a) also include a cause of action for trade dress infringement in Georgia. See, e.g., AmBrit, Inc. v. Kraft, Inc., 812 F.2d 1531, 1545 (11th Cir. 1986). See also, Kason Industries, Inc. v. Component Hardware Group, Inc., 120 F. 3d 1199, 1205 (11th Cir. 1997). A single deceptive or unfair act by a business can be enough to hold it liable in Georgia.

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What To Do If Someone Steals Your Business Invention or Idea: How Can I Protect My Business Trade Secrets In Georgia? This is a question clients oftentimes ask us.

While many business lawsuits involve disputes between businesses against businesses, there are also actions for which individuals can bring against other persons or businesses in Georgia. Today’s post will discuss how to recover under The Georgia Trade Secrets Act upon someone misappropriating or stealing your trade secret for his or her improper gain.

637885_-top_secret-.jpgThe Georgia Trade Secrets Act