Judge Sue L. Robinson recently denied plaintiff Quest Integrity USA, LLC’s (“Quest”) motions for preliminary injunction against defendants Clean Harbors Industrial Services, Inc. and Cokebusters USA Inc. (collectively, the “Defendants”). Quest Integrity USA, LLC v. Clean Harbors Industrial Services, Inc., C.A. Nos. 14-1482, 14-1483-SLR (D. Del. June 12, 2015). The patent-in-suit, U.S. Patent No. 7,542,874 (the “’874 patent”) was directed to a system for inspecting furnace tubes of petroleum refineries. Id. at 2-7.
Addressing the motions, Judge Robinson first considered Quest’s likelihood of success on the merits, and found that Quest had made a prima facie showing of infringement by both Defendants. Id. at 9-11. Turning to the issue of validity, however, Judge Robinson explained that “[v]alidity challenges during preliminary injunction proceedings can be successful, that is, they may raise substantial questions of invalidity, on evidence that would not suffice to support a judgment of invalidity at trial.” Id. at 8. Judge Robinson found that a “substantial question of invalidity” was raised based on a prior art reference (a final report prepared by Quest for Orion Norco Refining explaining its process), and thus Quest could not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits. Id. at 11-16. In reaching this determination, Judge Robinson explained that “[t]he court is required to construe the patent consistently for purposes of its infringement and invalidity analyses,” and that the “broad scope of the ‘874 patent . . . encompasses the Norco Report.” Id. at 13-14.
Judge Robinson then went on to find that “[e]ven if Quest had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, . . . Quest has not carried its burden to clearly establish irreparable harm.” Id. at 16. Specifically, Judge Robinson explained that “Quest has not even attempted to analyze the relative importance of patented versus non-patented features and has tacitly conceded that several of [its] initially raised factors cannot be demonstrated.” Id. at 17-18. Further, Judge Robinson was not persuaded that Quest had “demonstrated that defendants pose a threat of irreparable harm if allowed to compete, given the size of the market, the large number of refineries, and the fact that the parties have been competing for years.” Id. at 18.