Federal Circuit Jettisons the Presumption of Irreparable Harm in Injunctive Relief
By Charlie Stiernberg – Edited by Abby Lauer
Robert Bosch LLC v. Pylon Mfg. Corp., No. 2011-1096 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 13, 2011)
The Federal Circuit reversed the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, which had denied plaintiff Bosch’s post-trial motion for a permanent injunction, and remanded the case with instructions to enter appropriate injunctive relief.
Judge O’Malley, writing for a divided panel, held that the district court had abused its discretion in denying Bosch’s request for a permanent injunction of Pylon’s infringing windshield wiper blade products. Previous cases had not clarified whether the presumption of irreparable harm in the context of injunctive relief remained intact following the Supreme Court’s decision in eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 547 U.S. 388 (2006). In Bosch, the Federal Circuit “put the question to rest” and confirmed that eBay “jettisoned” the presumption of irreparable harm in determining the appropriateness of a permanent injunction. Slip op. at 10. The court then held that the district court had erred in its analysis of the irreparable harm factor by relying exclusively on the presence of additional competitors in the market and on the “non-core” nature of Bosch’s wiper blade business. Id. at 13.
IPBiz provides a summary of the case. PatentlyO examines the decision and applauds the Federal Circuit’s recognition of patents as property rights when performing an injunction analysis. Patent Prospector criticizes the court for putting the injunction in place without remanding to the district court.
Bosch, the patentee, sued Pylon, a competitor, alleging infringement of several wiper blade patents associated with Bosch’s “beam blade” technology. A jury trial determined that Pylon infringed valid claims of two of the patents; however, the district court denied Bosch’s motion for entry of a permanent injunction on the grounds that Bosch failed to demonstrate irreparable harm. The district court based its decision on (1) its conclusion that Bosch failed to define a relevant market, (2) the existence of additional third-party wiper blade competitors, and (3) the “non-core” nature of Bosch’s wiper blade business in relation to its business as a whole. Slip op. at 4. Bosch subsequently filed this interlocutory appeal.
At the outset, the Federal Circuit acknowledged that neither it nor the Supreme Court had expressly addressed the presumption of irreparable harm that existed in Federal Circuit jurisprudence prior to the eBay decision. The court therefore “confirm[ed] that eBayjettisoned the presumption of irreparable harm as it applies to determining the appropriateness of injunctive relief.” Id. at 10. However, the court cautioned that district courts should not ignore the fundamental nature of patents as property rights granting the owner the right to exclude.
After rejecting Pylon’s preliminary arguments against Federal Circuit jurisdiction, the court analyzed the case under the same four-part test for injunctions at issue in eBay, which requires a patentee to show: (1) irreparable injury, (2) inadequacy of monetary damages, (3) a balance of hardships warranting a remedy in equity, and (4) no disservice to the public interest. Id. at 8. The court addressed each component of the four-factor test in turn, holding that three of the four factors weighed in favor of granting the injunction, with the public interest factor being neutral. The court concluded that further proceedings in the district court would be inappropriate when, in its view, the undisputed evidence conclusively showed that a permanent injunction was warranted. Id. at 25.
Judge Bryson dissented in part, agreeing that the district court erred in its application of the eBay factors but disagreeing with the decision to remand with instructions to enter an injunction. Citing eBay, the dissent would have remanded to the district court to decide open questions of fact and to re-apply the four-factor test.
This case establishes unequivocally that, in the context of injunctive relief, a district court may not presume irreparable harm merely upon a finding of infringement of valid patent claims. However, Judge O’Malley’s opinion makes equally clear that there is no presumptionagainst irreparable harm, especially in light of a patent holder’s property-based right to exclude.
Charlie is a 2L at Harvard Law School.