Recently, in In Re: Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) further defined the level of control a defendant must exercise over an in-district agent to establish patent venue – i.e., where a case can be filed. The Federal Circuit held that the requisite control a principal must establish over its alleged agent in order to establish venue is “interim control”: day-to-day control over the manner of carrying out the specific actions for which the alleged agency relationship exists. Accordingly, in reversing the lower court, the Federal Circuit held that the dealerships in question were not agents of Hyundai or Volkswagen for the purposes of selling cars to consumers and providing warranty services.
The core business model of energy producers and providers does not traditionally create significant patent litigation risk. Despite the complexity of the modern energy grid, the basic business and technology of energy generation has not changed significantly in the past 100 years. However, new programs, including residential demand response, executed via smart home appliances and controls, may expose utility companies to increased liability. Demand response programs allow utility providers to reduce grid load and energy pricing by offering customers pricing incentives to reduce energy usage during times of peak demand…. While such programs have been generally available for commercial customers, recently, demand response opportunities for residential customers have been expanding. Where these residential demand response programs allow energy providers to directly control, through the internet, consumers’ smart thermostats and appliances, energy providers may be exposed to patent liability.