eBay v. MercExchange (Supreme Court 2006).
This year, the Supreme Court will determine whether a patentee should have a right to an injunction once infringement is found. This issue is fundamentally important to the practice, and a number of amici have filed briefs. (briefs in support of MercExchange will be filed later this spring).
The following is a review of the briefs received thus far. Copies of the briefs are available for download at the bottom of this post.[*]
Yahoo!, with the support of professor Robert Merges takes issue with patent trolls, and their propensity to ambush and cause harm. According to the brief, patent trolls are “entities whose primary purpose is to prey on innovators who actually produce societally valuable products.”
Yahoo!’s solution is that the “availability of injunctions should turn largely on whether the patentee engages in research and development and should discourage entities whose sole business is patent litigation.”
Electronic Frontier Foundation Brief
EFF thinks about free speech and argues that “automatic injunctions” pushes against our first amendment protections. EFF cites the importance of blogging and the potential of patent owners to claim control over internet publishing mechanisms.
AIPLA & FCBA Joint Brief
AIPLA is nominally in support of neither party, but is in fact in support of MercExchange. AIPLA argues that the CAFC’s “general rule” of issuing injunctions after a finding of liability is correct because the harm caused by continued infringement is “inherently irreparable.” The brief also argues that, in this case, the CAFC is not guilty of expanding the power of patents. Rather, the general rule of issuing injunctions has long been a part of patent practice and is consistent with the analysis in other areas of law such as trademarks.
Fifty-Two Law Professors Brief
Professor Lemley along with fifty-one other professors filed their brief in support of eBay. Notably, the professors attempt to make a distinction between a district court’s refusal to grant an injunction and a compulsory licensing scheme.
Interestingly, professors are clear that courts should be given discretion to deny injunctive relief, but that such discretion should not be used regularly or even often. This implies that the professors are at least in favor of a presumption that an injunction will issue.
Brief of Professors Pollack & Reynolds
Another set of law professors and legal scholars (Including Instapundit) argue that the Constitution supports a “presumption that injunctions are unwarranted for patent holders who are neither practicing their infringed inventions nor making good-faith efforts to prepare to practice their inventions.”
Teva, primarily a generic drug manufacturer, filed its brief arguing that (1) district court’s should have discretion and (2) the public interest should be represented in any injunction decision.
Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) Brief
CCIA argues that the CAFC continues to make patents stronger while the PTO continues to weaken patent quality. This combination, according to the advocacy group, encourages litigation and impedes innovation.
Bar Assn. of the District of Columbia’s Brief
The district court questioned the “unsettled political nature” of business method patents. In its brief, the BADC questions whether politics or draft legislation can be considered when determining an injunction.
IBM argues that Section 283’s permissive language (“may”) requires that courts examine equitable principles before issuing an injunction. Furthermore, the patent leader argues that the Supreme Court’s Continental Bag precedent also requires examination of the equitable principles.
Franklin Pierce Law Professors Brief
The law professors, led by Thomas Field, argue that the right to injunction should be strong and not variable according to patentee’s use of the patent. “The trial court accepted arguments analogous, given the apparent economic disparity between the parties, to ones Goliath might have made in asking that David be disarmed.”
Brief of Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, and Micron
The four technology giants have joined together in an “Innovator’s Alliance” and filed a brief in support of eBay’s position. The brief reviews some historical aspects of patent law and argue that the Founding Fathers would not have approved of automatic injunctions for patent infringement.
Brief of the Securities Industry
Several securities industry groups joined together to file a brief in support of eBay. The brief discusses their worries that a patent infringement lawsuit could hamper the reliability of financial markets
Brief of Research-In-Motion
RIM argues that the patent enforcement system must promote the useful arts
Nokia follows a similar vein as the EFF, but argues that interoperability of networks and systems is extremely important, and patents on de facto standards should not be granted injunctions.
Brief of the Bar of the City of New York
The NY Lawyers argue that injunctions should not be the general rule. Rather, courts should consider a broad range of factors that may sway the decision of whether to grant an injunction. These include irreparable harm; whether infringing activity was lawfully initiated (e.g., prior to issuance of the patent); whether patentee delayed in asserting a claim; whether there is a disputed question of law (e.g., claim construction); harm of an injunction to the infringer compared to benefit of the injunction for to patentee; extent of harm to third-parties.
Files (thus far):
Party Briefs on the Merits
Amici Briefs on the Merits
- Yahoo!’s Brief
- Electronic Frontier Foundation Brief
- AIPLA & FCBA Joint Brief
- Fifty-Two Law Professors Brief
- Brief of Professors Pollack & Reynolds
- Teva’s Brief
- Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) Brief
- Bar Assn. of the District of Columbia’s Brief
- IBM’s Brief
- Franklin Pierce Law Professors Brief
- Brief of Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, and Micron
- Brief of the Securities Industry
- Brief of Research-In-Motion
- Nokia’s Brief
Briefs for/against Certiorari:
* cite as Dennis Crouch, Review: EBay v. MercExchange Amici Briefs, Patently-O, January 30, 2006, at http://www.patentlyo.com.