Friday, July 16, 2010

A Tale of Two Orders

It was with some excitement that Volterra Semiconductor Corporation announced that U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Spero granted its motion for a preliminary injunction against Infineon Technologies AG, Infineon Technologies North America Corporation and Primarion Inc. (Infineon/Primarion) in its patent infringement lawsuit. (Case No. 08-cv-05129-JCS (N.D. Cal.).

Commentators note that this is a rare decision because, since the Supreme Court’s ruling in eBay, Inc. v. Mercexchange, L.L.C., which eliminated the presumption of irreparable harm in the context of permanent relief, it has been difficult to win injunctions in patent infringement cases.

Thus, Volterra was obviously pleased and stated that “"[w]e believe this ruling signals the likelihood of success on the merits of our case against Infineon/Primarion, and validates the strength of our intellectual property position."

While the Judge orally ruled on the issue of granting the preliminary injunction, a formal order has not yet been issued. Instead, the court directed the parties to both file briefs on the amount of the bond and submit proposed orders. Not surprisingly, the parties’ proposed orders are vastly different. The language of an injunction order is important because it defines who is to be restrained, what acts are to be restrained, and essentially protects a judge from an embarrassing appeal. Fed. R. Civ. P. 65 (d) dictates what each order must contain:

  1. The reasons the court issued the injunction: Volterra’s proposed order states that a preliminary injunction is appropriate because the Company proved all the necessary elements, including that “Volterra is likely succeed on the merits of its patent infringement claims.” Conversely, Infineon’s proposed order simply notes that the preliminary injunction is “warranted.” While I understand why Infineon would probably not want to elaborate on the reasons why the Court granted the injunction, unfortunately, the language in its proposed order does not adhere to the mandate of Rule 65.
  2. The persons or entities to be restrained: Volterra and Infineon’s orders are fairly similar in that they restrain the defendants and the defendants’ affiliates. However, Infineon’s order would exempt third parties, who have either purchased or have already contracted to purchase enjoined products.
  3. The acts to be restrained: Volterra’s order would halt all sales, manufacturing or marketing of any product that contained its patents. Conversely, Infineon’s order is much more liberal and would not enjoin the defendants from:

    1. shipping enjoined products that have already been sold to customers or have already been promised to customers
    2. providing support for enjoined products that have already been sold or otherwise provided
    3. selling enjoined products that have been manufactured, but not yet sold.

Infineon’s order also cautions that any relief not granted in the order is denied.

  1. Bond: Volterra’s order does not speak to bond. Infineon’s order, on the other hand, would have Volterra post a $20 Million Bond.
  2. The date and hour of issuance: Infineon’s order states that the order shall not take place until the Plaintiff has posted bond. Infineon’s order also states that the order shall not take effect until 60 days until after the entry of the Order, so as to give the defendants time to review the Court’s Order and to explore a potential design-around.
  3. The order’s expiration date: Infineon’s order states that the injunction shall run until trial, unless there is an earlier order modifying, terminating, or vacating the order. Volterra’s order simply contains standard language stating that the order shall remain effect until further order of the Court.

The parties are currently briefing the issue of the proper bond amount. (As is the case in patent litigation, most portions of the briefs are redacted, and the exhibits are sealed). Judge Spero is expected to issue a formal order soon, and I will let you know when he does, as it will be interesting to see which order was more persuasive.