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Copyright infringement defenses - Unclean Hands?

Posted by Steve Vondran | Jul 02, 2020

Attorney Steve® - Copyright Essentials- Defenses - Unclean Hands

copyright infringement affirmative defenses


"Unclean Hands" is an "affirmative defense" to copyright infringement, which means the defendant has the burden to PLEAD and PROVE the defense applies.  Here is a general overview of what's needed.

“[A] defendant asserting that a plaintiff's claim is barred by unclean hands must show that the plaintiff acted unfairly or fraudulently respecting the matter in controversy.” Ample Bright Dev., Ltd. v. Comis Int'l, 913 F. Supp. 2d 925, 940 (C.D. Cal. 2012).

To establish unclean hands in the United States District Court Northern District of California a defendant must demonstrate:

(1) inequitable conduct by the plaintiff;

(2) that the plaintiff's conduct directly relates to the claim which it has asserted against the defendant;


(3) plaintiff's conduct injured the defendant.

See Taylor Holland LLC v. MVMT Watches, Inc., No. 2:15-CV03578-SVW-JC, 2016 WL 6892097, at *11 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 11, 2016) (quoting Survivor Prods. LLC v. Fox Broad. Co., No. CV01–3234 LGB (SHX), 2001 WL 35829270, at *3 (C.D. Cal. June 12, 2001)).

“In the Ninth Circuit, unclean hands is a defense to copyright infringement ‘when the plaintiff's transgression is of serious proportions and relates directly to the subject matter of the infringement action.'” Oracle Am., Inc. v. Terix Computer Co., Inc., No. 5:13-CV-03385-PSG, 2015 WL 1886968, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 24, 2015) (quoting Dream Games of Ariz., Inc. v. PC Onsite, 561 F.3d 983, 990–91 (9th Cir.2009) (internal citations and footnotes omitted).

Contact a California Copyright Infringement Defense Law Firm

We are licensed to practice law in California and Arizona.  We have also been admitted to federal courts in Texas and New York and Arizona.  Contact us if you are a Plaintiff or Defendants involved in a copyright dispute, software licensing investigation, audit (ex. Autodesk or Business Software Alliance), or infringement case involving videos (ex. Strike 3 Holdings or Malibu Media), films, photographs, computer fonts, computer software, jewelry, architectural design, music or other copyrighted content.  We offer free initial evaluations and low flat rate (predictable legal fees).  Call us at (877) 276-5084 or email us through our contact form.

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Steve Vondran

Thank you for viewing our blogs, videos and podcasts. As noted, all information on this website is Attorney Advertising. Decisions to hire an attorney should never be based on advertising alone. Any past results discussed herein do not guarantee or predict any future results. All blogs are written by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise indicated. Our firm handles a wide variety of intellectual property and entertainment law cases from music and video law, Youtube disputes, DMCA litigation, copyright infringement cases involving software licensing disputes (ex. BSA, SIIA, Siemens, Autodesk, Vero, CNC, VB Conversion and others), torrent internet file-sharing (Strike 3 and Malibu Media), California right of publicity, TV Signal Piracy, and many other types of IP, piracy, technology, and social media disputes. Call us at (877) 276-5084. AZ Bar Lic. #025911 CA. Bar Lic. #232337

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