Court wouldn’t enter injunction where plaintiff had “unclean hands”

Plaintiff First Global Communications operates a website called “World Sex Guide.” In 2000, First Global got a federal trademark registration for the name of its site, to be used in connection with “guides in the field of travel and entertainment.” Defendant Powertools Software was the web developer that First Global hired to build the site.

First Global sued Powertools in federal court in the state of Washington, claiming that Powertools had set up several other websites that were illegally trading on the goodwill associated with the World Sex Guide trademark, and diverting visitors from the site. This act of diverting traffic was especially egregious, First Global claimed, since most of the content on the website consists of “travel reports” submitted by the site’s members. First Global asked the court to enter a preliminary injunction, ordering Powertools to stop diverting traffic and to turn over several domain names.

As it turns out, First Global’s site is a bit more than merely a guide to “travel and entertainment.” In fact, the site consists largely of information about how and where to pick up prostitutes, as well as advice on avoiding law enforcement efforts. Because of its content, the court determined that the website served an illegal purpose.

In reaching this conclusion, the court rejected First Global’s argument that the site’s content does not illegally advance prostitution. It also rejected First Global’s argument under the First Amendment, holding that “speech that aids or abets criminal activity can be prohibited.”

The court determined that entering an injunction “would have the effect of encouraging illegal activity and would serve an unconscionable purpose.” Relying on the equitable maxim that “those who seek equitable relief must come to court with clean hands,” the court refused to enter a preliminary injunction against Powertools.

First Global Communications, Inc. v. Bond et al., 2006 WL 278566 (W.D. Wash., Feb. 3, 2006).