What is an Injunction? How Does an Injunctive Relief Work?

Injunctions and Injunctive Relief Explained

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What is an Injunction? 

An injunction is an order by a court commanding or prohibiting action. An injunction usually is a court order demanding that one party stop doing something that is damaging to another party. For a complainant to receive an injunction, the complainant must show that no other remedy for the wrong is adequate or complete. 

Injunctions come in two types: preliminary injunctions and temporary restraining orders (TROs).

Preliminary injunctions are typically issues when a case is just beginning, to restrain one party from continuing an action that might injure the other party during the time the case is in process. TRo's are explained below. 

When determining whether an injunction should be issued, the court must balance the need for an injunction against the 5th amendment (due process) rights of the other party to do business or carry out legal activities. 

Injunctions in Contract Violations

Injunctions are often used in non-compete situations where one party is believed to be violating the non-compete agreement and is thus damaging the other party. The complainant will attempt to get an injunction to stop the competitor from creating additional damage, until the case can be heard. This type of injunction is sometimes referred to as a temporary injunction or a preliminary injunction.

Here's how an injunction might work in the situation of a non-compete.

Joe has sold his plumbing business to Suzie the Plumber. He signed a non-compete agreement saying he would not solicit customers (old or new) or operate as a plumber within 10 miles of Suzie's business for 3 years. Suzie finds out that Joe has been working within the 10-mile limit.

Because of the time it takes to sort out a non-compete, the damage to Suzie's new business is being done by Joe, unless she can stop him.

While he has a right to continue to do business, he doesn't have the right to work in violation of the non-compete, so Suzie goes to court to get an injunction.

Injunctions in Bankruptcy

Injunctions are used in bankruptcies, both business and personal, to stop creditors from trying to collect on debts during the bankruptcy process. This particular type of injunction is called an automatic stay, which goes into effect as soon as the bankruptcy case is filed and continues until the discharge of debts. 

Injunctions in Copyright and Patent Cases

Injunctions are also common in copyright or patent violation situations, for the same reason - to prevent harm to the copyright or patent holder until the case can be heard. If you want a court to issue an injunction to stop someone from violating your copyright, you must first register your copyright

Temporary Restraining Orders as Injunctions 

A temporary restraining order (TRO) is a type of injunction used in domestic disputes and divorce cases. In this case, they attempt to restrain someone from committing actions that could harm someone else. A temporary restraining order can also be used to attempt to stop a trustee's auction of a business or personal property.


What is Injunctive Relief? 

Injunctive relief is a term used in contracts (non-compete agreements, for example) to indicate that one party will seek "injunctive relief" (that is, will seek an injunction) against a suspected competitor.

More on Injunctions 

For more information, see this article on injunctions and injunctive relief from the Cornell University Law School's Legal Information Institute.