Today, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in eBay v. MercExchange, a case directed squarely at the standard for granting injunctive relief in patent infringement suits. That legal standard, which currently results in the nearly automatic granting of an injunction once a patent is determined to be both valid and infringed, was the most controversial issue during the drafting of and subsequent debate surrounding patent reform legislation in Congress last year. Now, with the Supreme Court set to weigh in, the injunctive relief issue is set to dramatically alter the future of the patent reform movement and change the value of every valid patent in the process.
The petitioner, eBay, seeks to change the standard in a manner that requires a court to consider various factors when determining whether a request for injunctive relief should be granted, including the extent to which the patentee makes use of the invention. This is the same argument advanced by the software and computer industries during congressional patent reform hearings held last year. The Business Software Alliance had scored a major victory by getting an injunctive relief provision into the draft of the act at the last minute, but suffered a setback when the provision was watered down with the official introduction of Rep. Lamar Smith’s comprehensive patent reform legislation, the Patent Act of 2005.