Flexible Lifeline Systems v. Precision Lift

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: 08-22-2011
  • Case #: 10-35987
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam; Circuit Judges Schroeder, McKeown, and Callahan
  • Full Text Opinion

In a copyright infringement case, the plaintiff must prove a likelihood of irreparable harm to obtain injunctive relief; the long-standing presumption of irreparable harm upon a showing of likelihood of success on the merits in a copyright infringement case is now impermissible.

In an action for copyright infringement, the district court granted Flexible Lifeline Systems, Inc. (Flexible) a preliminary injunction against John Tollenaere and Precision Lift, Inc. (Precision). At issue were technical drawings of aircraft maintenance stands. West Coast Weld Tech, Inc., the designer and manufacturer of the stands, entered into a joint venture with Precision to compete for a United State Air Force contract. West Coast always claimed ownership of the drawings. Due to financial difficulties, West Coast financial sold most of its assets, including intellectual property, to Flexible. Flexible sought to discontinue the joint venture, and Precision found another partner to replace West Coast in its maintenance stand bid. Flexible then sought to enjoin Precision from using Flexible’s intellectual property on the bid. On appeal, Precision argued that the district court abused its discretion when it relied on the long-standing presumption of irreparable harm in its application of the “four-factor test” for preliminary injunctive relief. Precision argued that the presumption runs afoul of two recent U.S. Supreme Court cases, eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, LLC and Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. The Ninth Circuit agreed, finding that the Supreme Court’s disapproval of a standard requiring a plaintiff to prove a mere “possibility of irreparable harm” in Winter surely invalidates the district court’s reliance on a standard presuming irreparable harm. Thus, the Court held that the presumption of irreparable harm upon a showing of likelihood of success is no longer permitted in issuing an injunction. VACATED and REMANDED.

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