An important role of our court system it to provide a final judgment that settles a dispute between parties. The final judgment rule is strong and – in most cases – bars any re-judgment even when post-judgment events & revelations would impact the outcome. For patent cases, one area of distinction is that of ongoing relief – such a ‘permanent’ injunction or ongoing royalties.
In ePlus v. Lawson Software, the patentee (ePlus) won its infringement case and the court ordered a permanent injunction against the adjudged infringer. Despite the court order, Lawson continued to violate the injunction and was socked with an $18 million contempt sanction. However, prior to the appeal of that sanction-order being completed the USPTO cancelled the infringed claims (reexamination finding affirmed on appeal). With that result in hand, the court here vacates the injunction and the contempt order – finding that the cancelled patent leaves them with no further legal basis.
It is well established that an injunction must be set aside when the legal basis for it has ceased to exist. . . . [U]pholding injunctions would be anomalous in the extreme in connection with patents this court has just held invalid. (citing Mendenhall v. Barber-Greene Co., 26 F.3d 1573 (Fed. Cir. 1994)).
Regarding the contempt holding, the court found it important that the district court’s holding was one of civil rather than criminal contempt. In dissent, Judge O’Malley argued that the contempt holding should have remained in place.
The court also released a denial of an en banc rehearing request in the same case – with a 5 to 5 vote. [LINK]