eBay has been in a long struggle with a company called MercExchange, the history of which we've gone over before. Basically, this company MercExchange managed to patent the concept of online auctions as well as the concept of offering a fixed price "buy it now" option. They sued eBay and won. While the online auction patent was later tossed out, the "buy it now" patent has stood (though, many of the patents involved are in the middle of the long and convoluted process for the Patent Office to review). Still, the court ordered an injunction against eBay on the other parts, basically barring them from offering the "buy it now" functionality. That injunction was stayed, pending an appeal to the Supreme Court -- which we thought the Supreme Court wouldn't be interested in. Consider us wrong. The Supreme Court will hear the case, though the focus of the case is likely to be about the legality of these patent-related injunctions, rather than the specifics of this particular patent. This could actually be a big deal -- as putting injunctions on companies accused of violating patents often act as a de facto means of forcing companies to pay out licensing fees just to avoid the risk of an injunction that would completely shut down their business.
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