Earlier this week, the Fourth Circuit decided an appeal in a dispute between Bethesda Softworks, LLC and Interplay Entertainment Co.
Bethesda sought to prevent irreparable harm arising out of Interplay’s alleged copryight infringement related to the Fallout video game. The district court (Chief Judge Chasanow, D.Md.) denied a preliminary injunction and the Fourth Circuit affirmed without hearing argument.
The unpublished opinion in Bethesda Softworks, LLC v. Interplay Entertainment Co. was issued by a panel consisting of Judges Niemeyer, Duncan, and Agee. For more details on the opinion see, Shawn Sullivan’s write-up.
When a couple mentions of this case popped up on my Twitter feed, I wondered how I had missed the decision, which apparently mattered to others in addition to the parties themselves. The reason I did not address it earlier is that it was decided without argument, which means that there is nothing that any of the judges saw as particularly difficult about the case, or anything about the case that would have benefited from development through oral argument.
The opinion relies in part on authority from outside of the circuit. For example, in resolving Bethesda’s lead argument–that irreparable harm was established by the parties’ contractual stipulation that breach would result in irreparable harm–the opinion relies on a Tenth Circuit decision and distinguishes a Second Circuit decision. If there is not a Fourth Circuit authority about the circumstances in which a contractual stipulation suffices to establish irreparable injury, that would seem to be a good reason to have ordered argument in the case. And if there is such authority, then the opinion should have cited that binding authority rather than the merely persuasive authority from the Tenth Circuit.