Coercive Litigation Tactics - Playing Hardball in The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois v. Micron Technology Inc.
By Hayes Hunt and Thomas M. O'Rourke
It is not uncommon for the parties to play hardball litigation to exert pressure on the other side to settle a case. But if your opposing party engages in tactics that you perceive to be coercive, should you immediately seek relief from the court? A recent decision illustrates some of the issues to consider before you ask a judge to solve your litigation problems.
In The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois v. Micron Technology, Inc., a patent infringement suit, the University alleges that Micron sold semiconductors that were made using its patented process. Before the lawsuit, the parties had a collaborative relationship and Micron actively recruited the University’s engineering students to work in its facilities. The lawsuit brought this relationship to an end. An email from Micron’s Academic Program Manager to many of the University’s engineering professors in January 2013 read as follows:
Because Micron remains a defendant in a patent infringement lawsuit that [the University] filed against Micron . . . , effective immediately, Micron will no longer recruit [University] students for open positions at any of Micron’s world-wide facilities.
The University immediately demanded confirmation from Micron that it would not engage in any further communications of this kind. Micron requested a legal basis for the University’s demand, which apparently was never provided, and refused to confirm that it would cease its communications. The University then filed a motion with the court seeking “an injunction that prohibits Micron from sending similarly coercive correspondence to the University.”