On Monday, Judge Cote granted a laser hair removal operator’s request for an injunction (included as part of a summary judgment motion) against another laser hair removal operator that had posted false reviews from fake accounts on internet consumer forums including Yelp.com and CitySearch.com. Judge Cote found that these reviews represented unfair trade practices under the Lanham Act and granted a permanent injunction, citing the defendants’ “willingness to use deceit to shape the market in which it functioned.”
The defendants argued that their laser hair removal business was no longer operating, that the reviews were posted in 2009, and that they had agreed to cease posting the false reviews, thus rendering the injunction unnecessary. Judge Cote disagreed, noting that the defendants’ promise to stop posting reviews lacked the enforcement powers of an injunction:
Because comments posted on the internet will have a lasting impact on a business’s reputation, and because that impact will be impossible to measure, monetary damages are inadequate to compensate the plaintiff for the unlawful activities of the three defendants . . . . The plaintiff’s business continues, and its continuing concern with its reputation in the community is strong. With an injunction, the plaintiff will have greater peace of mind and its investment in its business will be better protected. There is a strong public interest in fair competition and the accurate description of business services to members of the public.