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Supreme Court rules on eBay patent infringement, business tax incentive cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down decisions in four cases Monday, including eBay v. MercExchange [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], where the Court ruled that federal courts need not automatically issue a permanent injunction after finding that there has been patent infringement. In the case, a jury found that eBay and Half.com had willfully infringed MercExchange patents, but the district court did not grant a permanent injunction because such an injunction would go against the public interest. The Federal Circuit overturned this ruling [opinion, PDF] holding that, absent exceptional circumstances, district courts must issue a permanent injunction after finding that a patent has been infringed, but lawyers for eBay argued before the Supreme Court that courts should not grant injunctions on behalf of holders that have no intention of practicing their patents. Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Justice Thomas along with a concurrence [text] from Chief Justice Roberts and a second concurrence [text] from Justice Kennedy. AP has more.

In DaimlerChrysler v. Cuno [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court ruled that taxpayers who challenged tax incentives given to businesses to encourage economic development did not have standing to do so and overturned a Sixth Circuit decision [PDF text] that found that Ohio's investment tax credit program is unconstitutional. The case was consolidated with Wilkins v. Cuno. Read the Court's opinion [PDF text] per Chief Justice Roberts along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Ginsburg. AP has more.

In S.D. Warren Co. v. Maine [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court held that water released from a dam should be considered a discharge under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act and that federally licensed dams must comply with state water quality rules in order to receive licenses. The Court upheld the Maine Supreme Court's decision [PDF text] in the case. Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Souter. AP has more.

Finally, in Sereboff v. MidAtlantic Medical Services [Duke Law case backgrounder], 05-260, the Court held that plan fiduciaries under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act [DOL backgrounder] can bring a civil action under Section 502(a)(3) of the act to obtain "appropriate equitable relief" to recover money that plan participants received from another source. The Court upheld a Fourth Circuit decision [PDF text] that allowed MidAtlantic Medical Services to recover medical expenses paid after the Sereboffs won their personal injury lawsuit because the funds were identifiable, belonged in good conscience to MAMSI and were within the Sereboffs' possession and control. Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Chief Justice Roberts.

The Court also granted certiorari in four cases including cases where it will decide whether its decision in Crawford v. Washington [text] applies retroactively and will clarify standards the Environmental Protection Agency should use in determining whether there have been violations of certain programs under the Clean Water Act. Read the Court's full Order List [PDF]. SCOTUSblog has more.

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