EBay v. MercExchange

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In eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 126 S. Ct. 1837 (2007), a unanimous United States Supreme Court lifted an injunction against eBay for allegedly violating someone else's patent. Instead, the Court held that an injunction should issue in a patent case based on the same difficult, four-factor test for the issuance of injunctions in any other case in equity. This test requires a plaintiff to demonstrate:

  1. that it has suffered an irreparable injury;
  2. that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury;
  3. that, considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and
  4. that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction.

This ruling ended the judicial preference in favor of issuing injunctions in patent cases based on a patent-holder's fundamental right to exclude use of his invention by others.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for the Court, but only Justice Sam Alito joined it. Chief Justice John Roberts concurred, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to quote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s famous statement that "a page of history is worth a volume of logic." New York Trust Co. v. Eisner, 256 U.S. 345, 349, 41 S. Ct. 506, 65 L. Ed. 963, T.D. 3267 (1921) (opinion for the Supreme Court by Holmes, J.). Justice Justice Anthony Kennedy also concurred separately, and was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Stephen Breyer.

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