The U.S. Food and Drug Administration published the final rule in June requiring the display of nine new textual warnings along with the graphic images, such as a diseased lung and a cadaver.
The text and images were to occupy the top half of all cigarette packages managed and distributed in the United States after Sept. 22 next year.
Five of the largest tobacco companies went to court asking for summary judgment.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, a George W. Bush appointee, said, "Judgment is not before the court today." Instead, the judge ruled that the companies were likely to prevail on the merits and issued the preliminary injunction on that basis.
Leon said he "concludes that plaintiffs have demonstrated a substantial likelihood that they will prevail on the merits of their position that these mandatory graphic images unconstitutionally compel speech, and that they will suffer irreparable harm absent injunctive relief pending a judicial review of the constitutionality of the FDA's rule."
There was no immediate word on whether the Obama administration would attempt to appeal the judge's finding.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law on June 22, 2009, gives the FDA the authority to regulate the manufacture and sale of tobacco products, including cigarettes.
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