On January 10, 2013, the United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division entered a permanent injunction against a patent-infringing defendant in BROCADE COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS, INC. v. A10 NETWORKS, INC., Dist. Court, ND California 2013 – Google Scholar. The ruling restrained the defendant and parties in active concert with it from “making, using, selling, or offering to sell in the United States, or importing into the United States any AX series application delivery controller that includes features that infringe claim 25 from U.S. Patent No. 7,454,500, claims 13 and 24 of U.S. Patent No. 7,581,009, or claim 1 of U.S. Patent No. 7,558,195.”
While this result would not have seemed odd before May of 2006, Brocade is now one of the few cases where permanent injunctions have been issued since the decision in eBay, Inc. v. Mercexchange, LLC, 547 U.S. 388 (2006). While the Supreme Court was careful to make it clear that permanent injunctions remained a viable remedy in patent cases, the eBay case changed somewhat well established case law that a prevailing patent infringement plaintiff was virtually always entitled to a permanent injunction.
A successful patent plaintiff must meet its “burden of showing that the four traditional equitable factors support entry of a permanent injunction: (1) that the plaintiff has suffered irreparable harm; (2) that “remedies available at law 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.”
While those factors might seem easy to meet, in practice, it is often very hard to show that legal remedies (damages) are inadequate. In Brocade, the court found that Brocade “practices its patent, that [the defendant] is its direct competitor, and that Brocade does not license its patents,” and therefore that “Brocade has shown that it suffers the type of irreparable harm that a permanent injunction is intended to remedy” (emphasis added).
Brocade is a district court case and may be subject to an appeal, but it now stands as one of the relatively few cases post eBay in which a permanent injunction was issued.
One take-away from this ruling for licensing transactions, is that a patent holder must consider whether this type of remedy will be sought before engaging in licensing, particularly come one come all or non exclusive types of licenses. That was one of the three key factors the court pointed to in finding irreparable harm and lack of an adequate remedy at law.