Law School Case Brief
hiQ Labs, Inc. v. LinkedIn Corp. - 273 F. Supp. 3d 1099 (N.D. Cal. 2017)
A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest. In evaluating these factors, courts in the Ninth Circuit employ a sliding scale approach, according to which the elements of the preliminary injunction test are balanced, so that a stronger showing of one element may offset a weaker showing of another. For example, a stronger showing of irreparable harm to plaintiff might offset a lesser showing of likelihood of success on the merits. At minimum, plaintiffs must establish that irreparable harm is likely, not just possible, in order to obtain a preliminary injunction. Specifically, the Ninth Circuit has adopted and applied a version of the sliding scale approach under which a preliminary injunction could issue where the likelihood of success is such that "serious questions going to the merits were raised and the balance of hardships tips sharply in plaintiff's favor. Thus, upon a showing that the balance of hardships tips sharply in its favor, a party seeking a preliminary injunction need only show that there are serious questions going to the merits in order to be entitled to relief.
Plaintiff hiQ Labs, Inc. (hiQ) initiated this action after Defendant LinkedIn Corp. (LinkedIn) issued a cease and desist letter and attempted to terminate hiQ’s ability to access otherwise publicly available information on profiles of LinkedIn users. The letter threatens action under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). LinkedIn also employed various blocking techniques designed to prevent hiQ’s automated data collection methods. LinkedIn began these actions to thwart hiQ after years of tolerating hiQ’s access and use of its data.
Was hiQ able to establish that it is entitled to a preliminary injunction?
The court held that hiQ was entitled to a preliminary injunction because hiQ raised serious questions as to applicability of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to its conduct, and the court could not find that the CFAA preempted hiQ's affirmative claims under state law; hiQ unquestionably faced irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction, as it would likely be driven out of business, the court had serious doubt whether defendant's revocation of permission to access the public portions of its site rendered hiQ’s access "without authorization" within the meaning of the CFAA, and the court could not conclude that hiQ had raised serious questions that LinkedIn’s conduct violated its constitutional rights under the California Constitution.
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