Will a similar web business have any rights against us?

We have a website on a very specific technical business subject. In order to try to make some money from that website we intend to produce a list of businesses that provide services in this area. There is another website also doing the same thing, sometime before us. Our list is different, in terms of presentation and companies (obviously some overlap) and our business model is different: they only list fee payers, we list everyone but offer fee payers an enhanced listing. Do you think that the other older website would have any prospect of successfully suing us, or getting a court to order us to stop what we are doing? Both ours and their website are based in England.

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Alasdair Taylor's Answer

Nothing in your question suggests an obvious legal problem.

A business does not have the right to prevent other businesses from competing in its market – indeed a key policy goal of lawmakers in a market economy is the promotion of competition, and a whole field of law (competition law) is dedicated to regulating the behaviour of market actors to prevent anti-competitive behaviour.

Intellectual property law (which covers things like patents, copyright and trade marks) is one area which conflicts with competition law. However, your question does not suggest any IPR infringements are taking place.

Patent law, in any case, is most unlikely to be relevant to the situation you describe.

There are however ways of creating legal problems for yourself. For instance:

  • if you were copying information or material from the other business’s website or database, that could amount to copyright or database right infringement; and
  • if you were using a name, logo, domain or trading style similar to that of the other business, that could amount to passing off or trade mark infringement.

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