Patents. On Wednesday, March 29, 2006, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will hear oral argument in eBay v. MercExchange. The issue is whether the owner of a patent (in this case MercExchange) has the right to enjoin (or stop) an infringer (eBay) from selling an infringing product or service – in this case eBay’s popular “Buy It Now” (or, to eBay aficionados, “BIN”) purchase feature.
A jury has already found that eBay infringed MercExchange’s patent on this technology, and MercExchange is attempting to invoke the general rule that a successful patent plaintiff can shut down an infringing product, pending appeal. It was just this threat — the threat of a shut down — that led to Research in Motion paying a $612.5 million settlement to NTP in February. eBay is asking SCOTUS to modify the traditional rule and permit it to continue to use this service pending appeal. In patent circles this is a very big deal, and the outcome is expected to be a “landmark case.”
For an interesting discussion of the patent policy issues underlying this dispute see the article by Sam Williams in the MIT Enterprise Technology Review [link].
For a primer on software injunctions, and links to many of the briefs filed in the case, see this article in the “Patently O” patent blog [link].