What is injunctive relief?
How does it work and what are the different types of injunction?
What are some examples of injunctive relief?
In this article, we will break down the concept of injunctive relief so you know all there is to know about it.
We will go over its legal definition, what is its purpose, look at the different types of injunction, go over some concrete and real-life examples, look at the conditions that need to be proved in court and more.
We are confident that you will learn quite a bit about injunctive relief orders.
Are you ready?
Let’s get started!
What is injunctive relief?
A court can grant an injunction when a party is exposed to suffer irreparable harm or injury as a result of another’s behaviour or actions and when there is no other meaningful remedy possible.
An injunction relief is an extraordinary measure but also an equitable remedy intended to protect the plaintiff from irreparable harm.
The most notable example of when an injunctive relief can be sought is when a person has reasons to believe that another party is infringing its intellectual property.
Imagine that a luxury brand like Gucci discovers that another company is fabricating the same style of handbags, using Gucci’s logo and selling it as if it was a real Gucci.
Even if Gucci were to pursue the defendant in court and take several years to litigate the matter, the ongoing sale and infringement of its intellectual property rights will result in irreparable harm and damage to its revenues and reputation.
In this case, Gucci is well justified to immediately file an injunction to obtain a court order restricting the infringing party from selling replicas of Gucci bags.
Injunctive relief definition
According to Law.com, injunctive relief is defined as follows:
“a court-ordered act or prohibition against an act or condition which has been requested, and sometimes granted, in a petition to the court for an injunction. Such an act is the use of judicial (court) authority to handle a problem and is not a judgment for money.”
What’s interesting to note is that a party’s primary objective for filing for injunctive relief is not to seek monetary damages.
A monetary award will generally not solve the plaintiff’s problem.
The primary purpose of injunctive relief is to have another party act or cease behaving in a certain way.
For example, if someone is illegally replicating Burberry products, Burberry will not be satisfied with just a monetary award for damages.
Burberry’s main objective is to have the infringing party stop replicating and selling illegal Burberry products.
As such, the injunctive relief aims to prevent actions that may cause further damages in the future.
What are the different types of injunctions?
Three are generally three types of injunctive reliefs when considering their lifespan:
- Temporary restraining order (TRO)
- Preliminary injunction
- Permanent injunction
The injunctive relief can take two forms when looking at it from how they product effects:
- Mandatory injunction
- Prohibitory injunction
Let’s look at each type.
Temporary restraining order (TRO)
A temporary restraining order (TRO) is generally the first application filed by a plaintiff in court as it can be granted very quickly.
For example, someone is building on your land.
You can immediately get a temporary restraining order to preserve the status quo and prevent the person from advancing in illegally constructing property on your land.
A temporary injunctive relief is issued quickly by the court, implemented quickly and will have a very short-term lifespan.
Typically, the TRO will be valid for about 10 days.
What’s notable is that a temporary restraining order can be issued by the court without notice, without a court hearing and without informing the defendant.
Preliminary injunctive relief
A preliminary injunctive relief or provisional relief is a court order with a time span longer than a temporary injunctive relief covering a period of 30 days or longer.
In many cases, the courts will grant a preliminary injunctive relief order producing legal effects for the entire duration of the legal proceedings.
Once a plaintiff files for an urgent court order and obtains a TRO, the plaintiff can move to have the court’s restraining order remain in effect for the duration of the proceedings due to the irreparable harm the defendant may cause.
That’s when the court will evaluate the plaintiff’s request and assess whether it will be justified to grant a preliminary injunction during the proceedings.
For example, if a person is illegally building a property on your land, you will file a temporary injunctive relief application to immediately order the defendant from stopping construction work.
Once the TRO is granted and to avoid further damages, you’ll ask the court to order that the defendant refrains from doing any further construction work during the legal proceedings until the final judgment on merits is heard.
Permanent injunctive relief
The third type of injunctive relief is the permanent injunction.
As the name says it clearly, a permanent injunctive relief will have a permanent and ever-lasting effect.
Typically, a permanent injunctive order is rendered when the court had a chance to hear the parties on the merits of the case and is satisfied that the defendant’s actions can cause future and irreparable harm to the plaintiff.
For example, if a person has infringed the intellectual property rights of a software company, d is selling the infringing software product for a profit and competing with the original IP owner, the court can issue a permanent injunctive relief order to have the infringing party permanently cease selling infringing software products.
A mandatory injunction is a type of injunction that imposes an obligation on the defendant to do something or to act in a certain way.
Therefore, it is “mandatory” for the defendant to do something.
If the court orders the defendant to remove its machinery and equipment from your property, it is mandating the defendant to do something.
A prohibitory injunction is a type of injunction that prohibits a person from doing something.
In this case, the plaintiff asks the court to issue a court order forcing the defendant to cease a damaging act or from doing something in a certain way.
For example, a company may request a prohibitory injunction to demand that another company cease making illegal use of its trademark or logo.
What is an example of injunctive relief?
To better understand the injunctive relief meaning, it’s worth looking at a few examples.
We will look at some examples of injunctive relief to show how plaintiffs can leverage an injunctive recourse to prevent a defendant from behaving in a certain way or to act in a certain way.
Although we will look at a few specific examples of injunctive relief, note that such legal remedy can be exercised in many other instances such as in commercial relationships, civil rights, contract law, intellectual property law, employment and more.
Breach of contract
In business, there can be many instances when contracting parties may need to take an injunctive action against one another when things do not go as planned.
For example, if a person buys a rare collectible painting from another, pays for the painting but the seller changes his or her mind, the non-breaching party can file an injunctive relief suit against the breaching party to have the person ordered to deliver the painting.
The specific performance of a contract could be a form of equitable remedy.
Breach of agency obligations
An agency contract is when a party, the principal, authorizes another party, the agent, to act on its behalf with third parties.
If the agent breaches its contractual obligations and starts engaging in damaging behaviour by binding the principle in unwanted contracts or doing actions that are not authorized, the principal may file an injunction to prevent the agent from acting as such.
Imagine that you have a high-ranking sales executive in a company who decides to leave the organization, takes the company’s list of clients and starts engaging with them to entice them to switch to his or her new company.
This is when the sales executive may be infringing on a non-solicitation clause.
To immediately stop the former sales executive to cause further damages by luring clients away, the organization may file for a temporary restraining order to prevent the solicitation of further clients.
Take for instance a startup founded by three partners.
The partners have signed a unanimous shareholder agreement and have all committed not to compete with the company for a period of 6 months should they leave the organization.
After a few years of research and development to build a software application, imagine the chief technology officer leaves the company, becomes a shareholder of a direct competitor and starts working on a similar application.
In this case, injunctive relief may be obtained to prevent the former CTO from competing with his or her previous partners, working on a similar application and targeting the same market.
Take for example a person who owns a parcel of land.
One day, the owner discovers that a construction company is in the process of building an office building that encroaching on the land.
To ensure that the construction company does not advance further with the construction project, the landowner may take an injunctive relief suit to demand that the work be demolished and the land is put back in its initial state.
This is a type of injunction that the plaintiff is asking the defendant not to do something and do something at the same time.
The injunction will demand that the defendant to stop construction work (not to do something) and to put back the land to its original state (do something).
How to obtain preliminary injunctive relief?
The courts will exercise prudence when evaluating the possibility of issuing an injunctive relief order.
Such orders are rendered exceptionally and are intended to provide relief and remedy to a situation that cannot wait until a final judgment on the merits is issued.
Notice to defendant
Typically, a plaintiff is required to serve a notice or court summons to the defendant informing him or her that a civil action has been instituted against that person.
However, the notice requirements are slightly different when requesting an injunction from the court.
In most jurisdictions, a temporary restraining order is issued by the court on an ex parte basis and without notice to the defendant.
In the United States, Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure outlines the conditions that must be met for a court to be able to issue a temporary restraining order without written or oral notice to the adverse party.
For all other instances, a notice to the defendant will be required.
So what are the legal conditions to prove?
Depending on your jurisdiction, you’ll need to assess the specific requirements from the court either based in statute or case law.
Generally, injunctive relief can be granted when the following requirements are met:
- The plaintiff must show that it will suffer irreparable harm if the court does not render an injunctive order
- The damages and harm to the plaintiff outweighs the inconvenience of a potential judgment issued against the defendant
- There is urgency
In some jurisdictions, the plaintiff may also need to demonstrate that he or she has a substantial likelihood of success of the case is heard on its merits.
Consequences of not respecting an injunctive order?
An injunctive order is a legal and equitable remedy ordering a party to do or not to do something.
Failure to respect the judgment of the court can lead to important consequences.
If a court issues a judgment ordering something not to do something and the person continues to defy the judgment of the court, that person can be held in contempt of court.
In a civil lawsuit, a person found for contempt of court can be fined, can potentially lose the ability to file a defence, can have their plea dismissed, can even be put in jail.
The court will exercise its discretion in finding the right punishment to ensure that a person obeys the judgment of the court and to prevent future defiance of the law.
Injunctive relief is an exceptional legal remedy offered by the court when the plaintiff can suffer irreparable harm and when an award of monetary damages cannot reasonably compensate the plaintiff.
There are three types of judgments the courts can issue:
- A temporary restraining order or TRO
- A preliminary injunctive relief
- A permanent injunctive relief
They are all essentially similar with the difference that they produce legal effects for varying timelines.
For example, temporary restraining orders are extremely short term.
Generally, they do not extend beyond 10 days.
Preliminary injunctive reliefs are mid-term in duration and will generally last for the duration of the lawsuit or legal proceedings.
Permanent injunctive reliefs are essentially permanent and produce long-lasting legal effects.
The objective of injunctive relief is to have the court order the defendant from doing something (mandatory injunction) or not to do something (prohibitory injunction).
The Injunctive relief remedy can be a powerful legal tool available to litigation lawyers and litigants.
Make sure you follow the applicable rules to exercise the recourse properly.