A false advertising claim can be brought even if the party complaining is not mentioned in the advertisement. If the advertiser is promoting itself falsely, exaggerating its capabilities, misstating the breadth of its services or otherwise providing a false or misleading fact, a third party who believes itself damaged can bring a lawsuit. A competitor is often the plaintiff if it has lost business due to the advertisements. The federal Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), provides this cause of action when in a commercial advertisement, someone misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities or geographic origin of its own or another person’s goods, services or commercial activities. State unfair competition laws also address false advertising. False advertising might also be raised as a violation of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations or state consumer protection laws. A private citizen or business is the plaintiff in an action based on the Lanham Act or a state unfair competition law; the government brings an FTC or consumer protection action.
Ned T. Himmelrich
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