Entity A falsely accuses in a formal complaint with a large E-Commerce website, a retailer or group of retailers of knowingly selling counterfeit goods, for entity A's own benefit. Entity A files no police reports, and does not contact the accused retailers. Entity A knows that this action will indirectly (through existing procedure E-Commerce company already has in place) have negative financial consequences toward the retailer or retailers in question.

What are Entity A's possible negative legal consequences for making such an accusation falsely, if any?

Jurisdiction: I don't understand jurisdictions very well, so in my hypothetical case it might be California, it might be Washington, or might be any number of locations in the United States. If my lack of understanding makes this question too broad, I would request assistance in better understanding jurisdictional authority in a situation like this.

Assume for this question, that Entity A has the right to represent the good or goods in question, and would plausibly have reason to complain against actual counterfeiting.

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    Changed title. I am concerned now, that it was being read as a "Can I be sued?" question. I don't care if A can be sued, A can always be sued, for anything or nothing. If that is the only legal consequence, that answers the question. – CWilson Apr 7 '17 at 13:59

If somebody makes a false statement about your business in a way designed to harm your business, it generally constitutes libel. To prove libel in a court of law, you must prove:

(1) The statement is false and the defendant could reasonably be expected to know it was false

(2) The statement harmed your business in a material way or damaged your reputation in some significant way

(3) The false statement was calculated to harm your reputation or damage your business

If you can prove all 3 items, you can sue for whatever a jury will believe is an amount of money equal to the damage done to your business. If the false statement was malicious, that can be justification for multiplying the damages.

  • And is your answer implicitly stating that, in your opinion, the only risk of negative legal consequences for a person who might choose to do this in the future is a civil suit, for libel? – CWilson Apr 7 '17 at 4:29
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    @CWilson It is civil issue. Defaming someone is not criminal in the United States. If the defendant could reasonably have expected what they said to be true, then it will much more difficult to get a judgement of libel against them, even it turned out that the statement was false. Generally, you need to prove either that they knew what they wrote was false or that they displayed a "reckless disregard for the truth". – Cicero Apr 7 '17 at 4:56
  • Thank you. I changed a few words in my title, to make my question hopefully more clear. It appears that, in your opinion, that intentionally making false accusations of illegal activity, in this case counterfeiting, might increase one's likelihood of being sued, or even of losing such a civil suit, but carries no actual legal risk that was not already present. If so, you have answered my question. – CWilson Apr 7 '17 at 14:04
  • Actually, many states do have criminal laws against libel or defamation: firstamendmentcenter.org/criminal-libel-statutes-state-by-state. They may or may not be constitutional, and some may have been repealed since that list was created (I think Colorado's has). – Nate Eldredge Apr 7 '17 at 14:15
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    @CWilson: "Increase one's likelihood of losing a civil suit" is the very definition of "legal risk" for most people. Libeling someone could increase your risk of losing a libel suit from near 0% to near 100%. – Nate Eldredge Apr 7 '17 at 14:18

In the USA, there is "Tortious interference of business.- When false claims and accusations are made against a business or an individual's reputation in order to drive business away." according to Wikipedia.

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