By Dennis Crouch
I have a policy that I don’t hire anyone who sues me. If you sued me, I would actually take that personally. So does Micron. In a letter to University of Illinois engineering professors, Micron’s hiring coordinator wrote the following:
Because Micron remains a defendant in a patent infringement lawsuit that UIUC filed against Micron in Federal court in Illinois on December 5, 2011, effective immediately, Micron will no longer recruit UIUC students for open positions at any of Micron’s world-wide facilities.
. . . . [T]he Micron Foundation has endowed chairs at the College of Engineering and has sponsored student scholarship and professor research. However, because UIUC’s suit imposes costs and risks on Micron that are inconsistent with collaborative relationships among Micron, UIUC, and its students, Micron must regrettably indefinitely suspend its recruitment of UIUC students and likewise suspend participation in other joint activities.
In the patent litigation, UIUC has alleged that Micron infringes three of its patents. U.S. Patent Nos. 5,872,387; 6,444,533; and 6,888,204 – all invented by Drs. Joseph W. Lyding and Karl Hess.
In a motion for temporary injunctive relief, the University has alleged that the email demand involved both “coercion” and “duress.”
Coercion” under Illinois law consists of overpowering another’s free will by imposition, oppression, or undue influence. In re Marriage of Flynn, 232 Ill. App. 3d 394, 401, 597 N.E.2d 709, 713, 173 Ill. Dec. 735 (1992). A demand constitutes duress when it is, inter alia, morally wrongful. Carlile v. Snap-on Tools, 271 Ill. App. 3d 833, 840, 648 N.E.2d 317, 322, 207 Ill. Dec. 861 (1995). Micron may, of course, choose not to hire the University’s students, and may choose to withhold funding from the University. However, Micron may not convey those choices to University personnel, who have nothing to do with this matter, in an obvious effort to pressure the University into dismissing the instant action.
. . . . Here, the harm in question, the pressure Micron has placed, and is likely to place, on the University, warrants redress. Such redress should take the form of an injunction that prohibits Micron from sending similarly coercive correspondence to the University.
In response to the motion, Judge Sara Darrow has denied the University’s motion for injunctive relief has a vague restraint on future speech. Citing Alexander v. United States, 509 U.S. 544 (1993) (“Temporary restraining orders and permanent injunctions—i.e., court orders that actually forbid speech activities—are classic examples of prior restraints.”). Further the University failed to show irreparable harm as required for injunctive relief under eBay.
Although the court denied the University’s motion, it did note that “Micron’s decision to shun the University’s students is without tact.”
Note here to Micron (and others), if you are ready to fund the University of Missouri Law School’s new innovation center, we are willing to work out a covenant not to sue.
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The letter, with highlights from UIUC’s counsel.