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What is Trade Libel?

Trade libel is part of the more general principle of defamation. Where the defamation is made in a permanent form, such as in in writing, online or broadcasting, the defamation will be classed as libel.

Therefore, trade libel is where a publication of a false statement of fact is made that intentionally disparages the quality of the goods or services of a business and the business suffers damage to its goodwill.

The number of claims for trade libel has increased significantly over recent years due to the increase in new media publishing, such as blogs and social networks. The Defamation Act 2013 covers this area of law.

How do I bring a Claim for Trade Libel?

To bring a trade libel claim, you must be able to show:

  1. The defendant has made defamatory comments about you i.e. a statement which is untrue and which would make reasonable people think badly of you.
  2. The defendant has published the defamatory comments to a third party. The most common types of publications in these cases are books, newspapers, internet articles and television programmes. 
  3. The remarks complained of must identify you. This is obvious if the publication refers to you but sometimes it can be more difficult to prove when it does not specifically mention you. In those cases, the identification element will be met if a reasonable people would assume the remarks refer to you.

How can I Defend a Claim for Trade Libel?

The following defences may be used:

  • If the defamatory statement is true the claim cannot succeed;
  • It was the defendant’s honest opinion that the publication was true;
  • It was in the public interest that the publication was made;
  • Absolute privilege e.g. statements made in judicial or parliamentary proceedings and reports of judicial proceedings;
  • Qualified privilege e.g. statements made in governmental reports of official proceedings, statements made by government officials and some statements made by a former employer to a potential employer regarding an employee;
  • Peer-reviewed statements in scientific and academic journals; and/or
  • “Intermediary” defences where a defendant does not post the defamatory content but are involved in the transmission or presentation of the defamatory content.

Remedies Available in Trade Libel Claims

The remedies available for trade libel include:

  • General and punitive damages;
  • A final injunction after trial Is sometimes granted to restrain further or future publication of the words complained of or any similar defamatory matter;
  • The court ordering the defendant to publish a summary of the judgment;
  • The court ordering the operator of a website on which a defamatory statement is posted to remove the statement;
  • The court ordering any person who was not the author, editor or publisher of the defamatory statement to stop distributing, selling or exhibiting the material containing the defamatory statement;
  • An apology or offer of amends; and

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Our Approach & Our Experience

Intellectual property proceedings such as trade libel claims can be technical and complicated and are dealt with by specialist Courts in England and Wales.  At Myerson, we can provide you with swift advice whether you are bringing or defending a claim.

Myerson are members of the Intellectual Property Lawyers Association (IPLA).  The IPLA is an association of approximately 66 law firms who have an established intellectual property department.  The fact we are a member of the IPLA demonstrates that we have extensive and detailed experience in the conduct of IP disputes in the UK.  One of the main objectives of the IPLA is to lobby for improvements to IP law and practice for the benefit of those who hold IP rights.

Myerson are a nationally recognised law firm with a large team of intellectual property solicitors.  Our intellectual property team is ranked by the prestigious Legal 500 law firm directory.  Therefore, you can be assured that you will receive the best quality advice and service offering.

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Jonathan Hassall

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Vicky Biggs

Vicky Biggs

Vicky is a Senior Solicitor in our Commercial Litigation department

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Philip Ball

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