PK: Court Overvalues Patent Rights Injunctions

Fair use advocates warned a federal court Monday that it should not be so quick to order injunctions.

Public Knowledge, which advocates for fair use of copyrighted content, joined with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to file a brief with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (which specializes in intellectual property cases) asking it to reconsider its decision to approve an injunction sought by Apple and prohibiting certain sales of Samsung cell phones in the companies' years-long patent infringement battle.

The three-judge panel of the court reversed a district court's refusal to grant the injunction, concluding the lower court had erred. "This is not a case where the public would be deprived of Samsung’s products," said the federal appeals court. "Apple does not seek to enjoin the sale of lifesaving drugs, but to prevent Samsung from profiting from the unauthorized use of infringing features in its cellphones and tablets."

Apple is appealing that three-judge opinion to the full appeals court.

The panel had ruled that "the public interest strongly favors an injunction" because "the public interest nearly always weighs in favor of protecting property rights in the absence of countervailing factors," the groups said, an assertion--they called it a "hasty assumption"--that did not sit well with them.

"Our brief reminds the Federal Circuit that patent rights should only go so far as necessary to benefit the public interest overall," said Charles Duan, director of the Patent Reform Project at Public Knowledge. "It would be a serious and harmful error to make a blanket assumption that the public interest 'strongly' favors increased patent rights like injunctions."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.