What liability does a parent company have when a subsidiary’s actions allegedly constitute patent infringement?
That is the question answered in a recent patent infringement case, Akoloutheo, L.L.C. v. System Soft Technologies, Inc., No. 4:20-cv-985, 2021 WL 1947343 (E.D. Tx. May 14, 2021). In particular, Akoloutheo sheds light on the application of Rule 12(b)(7) in a situation where a subsidiary of the defendant parent company is the primary participant in the acts giving rise to the infringement action and could not be joined to the present infringement action. Based on the court’s determination, parent companies should not expect to escape infringement liability by pinning the blame on a subsidiary and seeking a dismissal via a 12(b)(7) motion when the subsidiary cannot be joined due to it being viewed as a joint tortfeasor and thus does not need to be joined to the present action under Rule 19. Further, the infringement statute may impute infringement liability on the parent through an inducement or contributory theory. Thus, despite the protection offered through the creation of separate corporate entities, parties should be aware that infringement liability may extend to both the parent and subsidiary under the theories of induced infringement or contributory infringement, even if the subsidiary is the primary participant in the alleged infringing acts.