EFF challenge ‘dangerous’ patent precedent

March 2006

Technology, internet

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the United States Supreme Court asking justices to overturn a court ruling in a patent case with ‘dangerous implications for free speech and consumers’ rights’. The Public Patent Foundation, the American Library Association, the American Association of Law Libraries, and the Special Library Association joined EFF on the brief. At issue is a case involving online auctioneer eBay and a company called MercExchange. Last year, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that eBay violated MercExchange’s online auction patents and that eBay could be permanently enjoined, or prohibited, from using the patented technology. But as part of the ruling, the court came to a perilous conclusion, holding that patentees who prove their case have a right to permanent injunctions under all but “exceptional circumstances,” like a major public health crisis. This radical rule created an “automatic injunction” standard that ignored the traditional balancing and discretion used by judges to consider how such a decision might affect other public interests–including free speech online. The EFF suggest the lower court’s ruling stems in part from a misperception that patents are just like other forms of property, with the same rights and remedies. However, the EFF suggest that relevant Supreme Court rulings have repeatedly emphasized that patents are a unique form of property, designed to achieve a specific public purpose.


Full brief: http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/ebay_v_mercexchange/eff_amicus_brief.pdf

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