For companies holding intellectual property licenses or pursuing infringement claims, finding out the other party has entered bankruptcy can raise concerns. In two recent decisions, federal appellate courts strengthened the IP protections available during bankruptcy.
With regard to ongoing IP litigation, the 6th Circuit held that bankruptcy's automatic stay may not protect a debtor from a pending trademark infringement lawsuit. The ongoing litigation involved a temporary restraining order against the debtor to stop using certain trademarks and service marks. The court reasoned that allowing the application of the automatic stay would essentially give the debtor the green light to continue his infringing conduct.
With regard to licensees, the 7th Circuit held that a bankrupt licensor’s rejection of a license does not terminate the licensee’s right to use any licensed copyrights, trademarks, and patents. Although Congress amended the Bankruptcy Code in 1988 to expressly allow licensees to continue using the intellectual property after rejection (provided they meet certain conditions), trademarks were not included in the definition. Therefore, it is still unclear whether rejection of an IP license ends the licensee’s right to use trademarks.
The 7th Circuit ultimately concluded that rejection of a license during bankruptcy constitutes a breach of such contract. The court reasoned that a licensor’s breach does not generally terminate a licensee’s right to use intellectual property and, therefore, the same should apply in bankruptcy.
In its opinion, the 7th Circuit rejected Lubrizol Enterprises, Inc. v. Richmond Metal Finishers, Inc., 756 F.2d 1043 (4th Cir. 1985). In a widely criticized opinion, the 4th Circuit had determined that when an intellectual property license is rejected in bankruptcy, the licensee loses the ability to use licensed IP rights.
How Can We Help?
Of course, these cases highlight just a few of the IP issues that may arise during bankruptcy. For additional information, contact one of our experienced IP attorneys today.
At Sheldon Mak & Anderson, we recognize that innovation is your competitive edge - and it needs protection. As a full-service intellectual property firm with more than two decades of experience, we provide local, regional, national, and international legal services in the following areas: patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, IP litigation, international patent and trademark prosecution, licensing, alternative dispute resolution, and green technology.
Contact our knowledgeable intellectual property attorneys today TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can provide powerful protection for your unique ideas.