In a recent decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found jurisdiction granted by 28 U.S.C. §1292 as interpreted by the federal courts and vacated a lower court’s order of preliminary injunctive relief. Duhn Oil Tool, Inc. v. Cooper Cameron Corp., Case No. 09-1352 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 19, 2010) (per curiam, non-precedential) (Linn, J.; Friedman, J.; Moore, J.).
Plaintiff Duhn owns a patent covering a “frac mandrel,” a tool for isolating the head of an oil or natural gas well. Cameron’s version of the tool was alleged to infringe when its lockscrews are engaged during installation. Though the district court claimed to deny injunctive relief, it effectively granted it by imposing an affirmative obligation on Cameron to “provide instructions to its frac mandrel customers, which unambiguously state that the lockscrews are not to be engaged during installation or use of the frac mandrel.”
The parties disputed whether the district court’s order was could immediately be appealed under 28 U.S.C. §1292. Under Federal Circuit precedent, if a district court’s order expressly grants an injunction, the order can be appealed under §1292(a)(1), without regard to whether the appellant is able to demonstrate serious or irreparable consequences. Applying this precedent, the Court found jurisdiction in viewing the district court’s order as an express injunction. The Court focused on the lower court’s requirement that Cameron provide installation instructions to its customers and classified that requirement as an injunction because it “specifically imposed … an affirmative obligation on Cameron … to prohibit Cameron from further allegedly infringing uses.” The Court then reasoned that based on conflicting evidence regarding future infringement, an insufficient showing of the notice requirement and Duhn’s failure to identify irreparable harm it would suffer without the court’s order, there were insufficient grounds to grant an injunction. The Court relied on precedent in Amazon, which requires the moving party to show both likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable harm unless the injunction issues.
Practice Note: Although Duhn Oil is designated as non-precedential, the Court’s application of Federal Circuit precedent to the appellate jurisdiction issue is compelling. A court’s order denying injunctive relief should be scrutinized in case it is injunctive in nature and thus improper.