When you can prove that you likely are the victim of copyright or trademark infringement, or trade secret misappropriation, you have a good shot at getting a preliminary injunction (if you can afford the bond). That’s because there is a legal “presumption” of irreparable harm associated with these types of IP claims. Prove likelihood of success and you are well on your way to the promised land of “irreparable harm.”
But, this is not true in patent cases. It’s quite difficult to get a preliminary injunction in a patent infringement case. Its always been hard, and its getting harder. After all, in 2006 the Supreme Court issued a ruling the result of which is that injunctions are far from a sure thing, even if you win a patent infringement case on the full merits (for example, after trial). eBay v. MercExchange [link].
Many courts (although not the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, which holds almost all of the big mojo when it comes to patent matters, trumpted only by SCOTUS), has not explicitly held that MercExchange applies to preliminary injunctions, but it would be illogical to conclude the holding in that case does not apply in the context of preliminary injunctions, and a number of district courts have so held.
Printguard, Inc. recently discovered how hard it is to get a preliminary injunction in a patent infringement case in a case it brought against Anti-Marketing Systems, Inc. in the District of Massachusetts. Our District’s newest addition to the federal bench, Judge F. Dennis Saylor, IV, rejected the motion on the ground that the defendant had raised a “substantial question” as to the validity of the patent – in this case due to obviousness. In a crisply written and thorough opinion Judge Saylor didn’t even reach the thorny question of irreparable harm, which might have provided an alternative basis altogether for denying the motion.
Of course, the case goes on, and Printguard has appealed Judge Saylor’s decision, so stay tuned.