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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

ebay scores a point against the patent trolls

Screw you, MercExchange! The Supremes have taken a small step against IP tyranny; see this Forbes article. Spotted via Slashdot. Excerpt:
The U.S. Supreme Court has tipped the balance in patent disputes ever so slightly toward the users of patented technology and away from inventors, owners of intellectual property and the hated "patent trolls"--companies that make money by suing for infringement of patents they own but don't use.

In a victory for eBay (nasdaq: EBAY - news - people ), the justices ruled unanimously that federal courts must weigh several factors before barring a patent infringer from using a contested technology or business method.

The online auction house had petitioned the Supreme Court to review the practice of automatically issuing a permanent injunction whenever a patent was found valid and infringed, arguing that the rigid standard was not grounded in the law.

At stake for eBay was the viability of the popular, fixed-price "Buy It Now" section of its Web site. MercExchange, a tiny Virginia-based patent-holding company, won millions of dollars in damages when it successfully sued eBay for violating one of its patents related to the fixed-price auction feature.

Now the case will be sent back to the U.S. District Court where eBay originally won the right to continue operating "Buy It Now" while it designs around the patent it infringed.

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