The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has clarified that, while a judgment of patent infringement and validity does not constitute a presumption of irreparable harm “as it applies to determining the appropriateness of injunctive relief,” the judgment should not be ignored by the court when weighing the equities involved in deciding whether to impose a permanent injunction. Robert Bosch LLC v. Pylon Mfg. Corp., No. 2011-1096 (Fed. Cir., decided October 13, 2011).
The issue arose in a patent infringement case involving automobile wiperblade technology. A jury determined that certain of the plaintiff’s patent claims were valid and infringed, and the plaintiff sought to permanently enjoin the infringement. The district court denied the plaintiff’s motion, finding an absence of irreparable harm.
Interpreting a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the Federal Circuit stated, “even though a successful patent infringement plaintiff can no longer rely on presumptions or other short-cuts to support a request for a permanent injunction, it does not follow that courts should entirely ignore the fundamental nature of patents as property rights granting the owner the right to exclude.” According to the Federal Circuit, “the record contains no basis on which the district court rationally could have concluded that Bosch failed to demonstrate irreparable harm or that a remedy other than injunction is sufficient to address its harm.” Because the district court “made a clear error in judgment in its analysis of the irreparable harm factor,” one of four considered in an injunctive-relief analysis, and given the inequities of delaying injunctive relief, the court reversed the lower court’s ruling and remanded for entry of an appropriate injunction.
Several other issues the court addressed included the district court’s erroneous (i) “conclusion that the presence of additional competitors, without more, cuts against a finding of irreparable harm”; and (ii) reliance on the ‘non-core’ nature of Bosch’s wiper blade business in relation to its business as a whole,” to conclude the company had not been irreparably harmed. On the first issue, the court stated, “While the existence of a two-player market may well serve as a substantial ground for granting an injunction—e.g., because it creates an inference that an infringing sale amounts to a lost sale for the patentee—the converse is not automatically true, especially where, as here, it is undisputed that the patentee has sought to enforce its rights against other infringers in the market.” As to the second issue, the court said, “It is true that some courts have referenced the fact that the patented product is at the core of a party’s business when explaining their bases for granting an injunction. The trial court’s error in relying on these cases again arises from its conclusion that, if a fact supports the granting of an injunction, its absence likely compels denial of one. That is not the law, however.”
A dissenting judge would have remanded for the district court to hold a hearing on the matter, disagreeing with the majority that “the record compels the issuance of an injunction.” According to this judge, certain factual and evidentiary issues were not clear cut and are for the district court to resolve