Energy firms at risk of patent lawsuits

Energy companies may not always be up to date on legal issues involving the technology they use, and may therefore be unwittingly exposing themselves to allegations of patent infringement.

That’s the warning being issued by legal experts, who caution that developing smart grid solutions brings with it legal risks.

Writing in Power Engineering International magazine, Ji Young Park, Spencer Abraham and Salvatore Tamburo of law firm Blank Rome state that “as energy companies adopt technologies to equip themselves and their clients to take full advantage of the smart grid, they need to think about how to protect their homegrown technologies and protect themselves against patent infringement lawsuits”.

They highlight that there are many patent infringement lawsuits now implicating businesses in the energy sector. 

“With the increased use of information technology in the smart grid era, what has been a long-time reality for companies in the IT sector seems to be bleeding into the energy sector – patent infringement lawsuits brought by non-practicing entities, also known as ‘patent trolls’.”

They warn that companies in the IT sector are also targets of patent infringement lawsuits based on patents covering communication technology standards, for example Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. “This means, when a company is selling a mobile device using Wi-Fi technology to access the Internet, it is infringing a Wi-Fi patent and the owner of the patent can bring a patent infringement lawsuit against the company.”

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