Keeping the Aisles Clear: Envision’s Parking Lot Solar Chargers Got Tracking!

February 9th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

Envision logo

Envision Solar (Envision) is a San Diego-based company that makes solar parking structures that can be used to charge electric vehicles, support outdoor digital advertising, and enhance energy security.  What makes Envision’s products unique is that unlike most parking lot solar-powered vehicle charging stations, most of the company’s systems have the ability to track the movement of the sun.

According to Envision’s President and CEO Desmond Wheatley, 90% of Envision’s deployments have tracking capability.  Why tracking?  He echoed my thoughts exactly:  because it’s “cool.”

Also, parking lots are “hyper-restrained” in geography so a solar charger needs to maximize energy density in a very small space.  Incorporating tracking helps in that regard.

Envision’s two major product offerings are the Solar Tree® and the EV ARC™.  The company owns at least seven U.S. patents and pending applications covering various aspects of the technology in these products.

U.S. Patent No. 7,705,277 (‘277 Patent), issued in 2010, covers Envision’s original design.  Entitled “Sun tracking solar panels,” the ‘277 Patent is directed to a system for maximizing solar energy utilization by moving a solar panel to track movement of the sun from sunrise to sunset.  Movements of the solar panel are accomplished daily in accordance with a programmed schedule of consecutive cycles.

A subsequent patent issued in early 2014 is directed to a refined design better suited for solar tracking in a parking lot.  The system covered by U.S. Patent No. 8,648,551 (‘551 Patent) is significant, Wheatley said, because instead of the tracker causing the solar panel to swing in to the drive aisle, it instead bows.

According to the ‘551 Patent, the rotation of a cylindrical knuckle in the tracking system “allow[s] the solar panel to continuously reorient while maintaining a substantially stationary footprint.”

Wheatley told me the company’s most important intellectual property is that around the features of the EV ARC™.

Wheatley mentioned several advantageous features of the EV Arc.  First and foremost is its autonomy, i.e., it is not connected to the utility grid.  Some of the structural features are also important, including the ability for the thin base plate to support heavy vehicles and the high-traction material of the base plate, which allows it to remain stationary.

U.S. Patent No. 9,209,648, issued in November 2015, is entitled “Self-contained renewable battery charger” and is directed to a charging system (10) comprising a portable unit (12) that includes a moveable docking pad (16) having a base (18) and compartment (20) for holding a storage battery (18).

 

648 FIG 1

The portable unit (12) includes a column (24) having a first end (26) mounted onto the docking pad (16) and a second end (28).  A solar array (30) is affixed to the second end (28) of the column (24).  The unit has a structural canopy with a beam (32) and cross members (34) attached to the column (24) to support the photovoltaic modules of the solar array (30).

The company also has IP around the mobility and installation of its systems, including a specialized trailer and hydraulic ram, ARC™ Mobility, for transportation and deployment purposes.

Wheatley and Envision are very aware of the importance of patent protection in the U.S. and beyond.  The company’s patents, he said, “prevent smaller competitors from copying” their technology.  They also might stop larger customers from buying pirated products.  In general, a strong IP portfolio increases the company’s value in the investor community.

With investments of about $200 billion on EV charging, the company sees China as an important market and has filed patent applications there.  Wheatley told me that Chinese patents allow Envision to bring powerful partners aboard in China to protect the company’s business ventures there.

Envision Solar continues to innovate and isn’t stopping at car charging; they’re working on EV ARC™ eBike and eMotorcycle charging as well.  Many more patent applications will certainly follow.

Paice Licenses Hybrid Vehicle Patents to More Big Automakers

February 2nd, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

l_paice

In another big success for Paice, the hybrid vehicle technology company recently reached an agreement to license all of its tech to Hyundai and Kia.

This comes after a Baltimore jury found that the Korean automakers owed Paice $28.9 million in damages for infringing three patents relating to hybrid electric vehicles: U.S. Patent Nos. 7,237,634, 7,104,347, and 7,559,388.  All three patents are entitled “Hybrid vehicles” .

Paice has been an extremely successful non-practicing entity, using patent litigation in the federal courts and the U.S. International Trade Commission to bring major automakers to the negotiating table.

In 2010 the company settled major patent litigation with Toyota over the Prius and other hybrid models when the Japanese automaker licensed all of Paice’s patents.  Also that year, Paice and Ford became embroiled in patent litigation over hybrid vehicles.

According to the company’s press release about the Kia/Hyundai deal:

Paice has now licensed all or part of its hybrid vehicle technology portfolio to Toyota, Hyundai/Kia, and Ford – three of the world’s six largest automakers.  These three companies currently account for 90% of all hybrid vehicle sales in the United States.

Does all this litigation and licensing make Paice one of the oft-maligned “patent trolls?”  I think not.

The company should not be put in that category for a couple of reasons.  First, the founder of the company and inventor of the technology, Alex Severinsky, is a true innovator and pioneer, having invented much of Paice’s technology at least as early if not earlier than the large automakers.

Most of the patent assertion entities we think of as trolls are not innovators, but instead buy patents to assert in litigation and offer to license.

Second, Paice made genuine efforts at ex ante licensing.  That is, the company approached Toyota with offers to license its technology before any hybrid vehicles were ever sold.

This is in contrast to the business model of acquiring and asserting patents, with licensing offers, after the allegedly infringing products have been manufactured and racked up lots of sales (ex post licensing).

Paice’s success is not a surprise when one understands the power of its patents.  A 2010 report by a patent analytics firm called Ambercite analyzed 58,000 hybrid car patents and their interrelationships using network patent analysis methodology and found Paice’s portfolio to be the strongest, better than all major car manufacturers’ hybrid car patents.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

January 26th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

A number of green patent complaints were filed in November and December of 2015 in the areas of LEDs, smart grid, and water treatment.

 

LEDs

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Ace Hardware Corporation

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Bulbrite Industries, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. FEIT Electronic Co.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. G7 Corporation

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Ikea North America Services LLC

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Philips Electronics North America Corp.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Technical Consumer Products, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. TigerDirect, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Torchstar Corp.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Ushio America, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Wayfair LLC

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Westinghouse Lighting Corp.

Bluestone Innovations fired off thirteen complaints against a host of LED manufacturers and retailers on November 30, 2015.  All were filed in the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California (most, if not all, in San Francisco).

Some representative complaints can be viewed here:  Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Ace Hardware CorporationBluestone Innovations LLC v. Bulbrite Industries, Inc.Bluestone Innovations LLC v. FEIT Electronic Company, Inc.Bluestone Innovations LLC v. G7 Corporation

Bluestone asserted infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,163,557 (‘557 Patent).  The ‘557 Patent is entitled “Fabrication of group III-V nitrides on mesas” and directed to group III-V nitride films fabricated on mesas patterned either on substrates such as sapphire substrates or on group III-V nitride layers grown on substrates. The mesas provide reduced area surfaces for epitaxially growing group III-V nitride films to reduce thermal film stresses in the films to minimize cracking.

The accused products are various brands and models of LED lightbulbs with group III-V nitride epitaxial films.

 

Smart Grid

Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. Firetide, Inc.

Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. Strix Systems, Inc.

Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. S&C Electric Company

Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. 3E Technologies Int’l, Inc.

Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. FluidMesh Networks LLC

Endeavor MeshTech (a wholly-owned subsidiary of patent monetization firm Endeavor IP) made a strong finish to a busy year of patent enforcement, filing five new lawsuits in November and December of 2015.

The suits against Firetide and Strix Systems were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on November 23, 2015 (Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. Firetide, Inc.Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. Strix Systems, Inc.); the S&C Electric and FluidMesh Technologies complaints were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on December 1 and December 28, 2015, respectively (Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. S&C Electric CompanyEndeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. Fluidmesh Networks, LLC); the lawsuit against 3E Technologies was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on December 23, 2015 (Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. 3E Technologies International, Inc.).

All of the complaints accuse the defendants of infringing three patents in a family – U.S. Patent Nos. 7,379,981 (‘981 Patent),  8,700,749 (‘749 Patent), and 8,855,019 (‘019 Patent), each entitled “Wireless communication enabled meter and network.”

The patents-in-suit relate to a self-configuring wireless network including a number of vnodes and VGATES.

 

Clean Energy Management Solutions, LLC v. Eaton Corp.

Clean Energy Management Solutions sued Eaton for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,636,893 (‘893 Patent) and 6,577,962 (‘962 Patent).

The ‘893 Patent is entitled “Web bridged energy management system and method” and directed to systems and methods enabling individual energy management sites to be connected using a web bridge such that data from the individual sites can be accumulated to a single site, data from one site can be distributed to many sites, and a pyramid arrangement can be used.

The ‘962 Patent is entitled “System and method for forecasting energy usage load” and directed to systems and methods dynamic, real-time energy load forecasting for a site.

Filed December 16, 2015 in federal court in Marshall, Texas, the complaint alleges that Easton’s smart grid solutions such as the Yukon IED Manager Suite infringe the patents-in-suit.

 

Atlas IP, LLC v. City of Naperville

Atlas filed suit against the City of Naperville, Illinois, alleging that the municipality’s installation of REX2 residential smart meters supplied by Elster Metering infringes an Atlas smart meter patent.

The asserted patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,371,734, is entitled “Medium access control protocol for wireless network” and directed to a reliable medium access control protocol for wireless LAN-type network communications among a plurality of resources, such as portable computers.

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on November 30, 2015.

 

Water Treatment

America Greener Technologies, Inc. et al. v. Enhanced Life Water Solutions, LLC et al.

In a complaint filed December 8, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, America Greener Technologies (AGT) sued a number of companies and individuals for alleged infringement of a patent relating to a water treatment device and process.

The asserted patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,477,003, entitled “Apparatus for generating a multi-vibrational field” (‘003 Patent).  The ‘003 Patent is directed to an apparatus and method for generating multi-vibrational electromagnetic (MVEM) fields for use in many water treatment applications, including eliminating calcium build-up, reducing salt usage, increasing water clarity, restructuring or inhibiting nitrates, and restructuring or inhibiting calcium salts and other minerals.

AGT alleges that, after selling the patent to AGT, one of the inventors/co-defendants manufactured a patented device and has been leasing, selling or renting the device.

 

Veolia Water Solutions & Technology Support v. WesTech Engineering, Inc.

Veolia sued WesTech in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, asserting U.S. Patent No. 8,961,785 (‘785 Patent).

The ‘785 Patent is entitled “Rotary disc filter and module for constructing same” and directed to a rotary disc filter device including a rotary drum and disc-shaped filter members secured about the drum.

Filed November 13, 2015, Veolia’s complaint alleges that WesTech’s SuperDisc disc filter infringes the ‘785 Patent.

Top Green IP Stories of 2015

January 19th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

2015

Before we get into the new news, let’s take a quick look back at the top green IP stories of 2015.

 

5.  Automaker Eco-marks

Branding of hybrid and electric vehicles remained important last year, and both Chevrolet and Toyota made progress in protecting and enforcing their trademark rights in 2015.

Chevy overcame some obstacles in its U.S. trademark applications for the BOLT and CHEVROLET BOLT marks.  It seems these applications were filed as early as possible to secure registration based on Chevy’s planned production date of its all-electric concept car coming to market in 2017.

Toyota prevailed in an opposition proceeding, shutting down a Chinese company that wanted to register PRIUS as a trademark for tobacco flavors and smoking paraphernalia.

 

4.  Biodiesel Tax Credit Greenwashers Plead Guilty and Go to Jail

Last year, a number of people were sentenced to jail time for charges related to schemes involving false production of biodiesel renewable identification numbers (RINs).

Four individuals in Florida were sentenced to prison time for representing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they had produced biodiesel, generating fraudulent biodiesel RINs, and selling the fake RINs to third parties.

In Texas, the operator of a company called Green Diesel LLC pled guilty to charges of claiming to produce millions of gallons of biodiesel and generating and selling about 45 million fake RINs based on the claim.  Under the plea deal, he faces more than 10 years in prison and will be responsible for $51 million in restitution to reimburse victims of the scheme.

 

3.  EV Patent Commons

Picking up where Tesla left off in 2014, Toyota and Ford made opening up patents directed to electric vehicles and related technology a trend in 2015.  Neither made open-ended, no restriction offers like Tesla, though.

In January Toyota announced that its patents related to hydrogen fuel cell technology would be available for use without any royalties.  The hydrogen production and supply patents are open for “an unlimited duration.”  However, the fuel cell patents are available for royalty-free licenses only until the end of 2020.

Ford followed in May with an announcement that it was offering its EV patents for license “for a fee.”  This is not a donation.  Far from it; Ford simply stated that other parties could pay to license their EV patents.

 

2.  High-tech Greenwashing

A new trend emerged in 2015:  that of technological greenwashing.  Rather than making false or misleading statements in ads and other marketing materials, or providing express statements of inflated numbers, this new form of greenwashing uses technology to deceive.

The most prominent example was the major news of the Volkswagen emissions scandal in which the German automaker admitted to intentionally programming a number of its diesel vehicles to activate emissions controls only during testing.  The vehicles’ software allowed the nitrogen oxide (NOx) output to satisfy U.S. emissions standards during testing while producing much higher emissions during actual driving conditions.

Another high-tech greenwashing case is the lawsuit accusing Ford of claiming that a software update for the Fusion Hybrid would increase performance and mileage.  According to the plaintiff, the car’s monitor displayed better mileage and less gas usage after the upgrade but the numbers were inaccurate and the vehicle’s actual mileage did not improve.

A troubling trend, given that the entire deception is cloaked in technology.

 

1. Biobutanol Patent Warriors Settle

A significant green patent case settled in 2015.  In August, Colorado-based Gevo and BP-DuPont joint venture Butamax entered into worldwide patent cross-license and settlement agreements.

The deal ended a massive patent dispute that began back in early 2011 and grew to comprise at least 17 lawsuits and 14 patents relating to methods of producing biobutanol.

The core of the deal was that Butamax takes the lead in the on-road gasoline market and Gevo gets the jet fuel market.

The litigation was notable both for its size and as the first foray of big oil into biofuels patent lawsuits.

December 20th, 2015 by Eric Lane No comments »

Green Patent Blog is on vacation.

Happy Holidays!

Tradem-rk Bo-rd B-rs Registr-tion of SOL-R M-rk

December 15th, 2015 by Eric Lane No comments »

I’ve written extensively before about eco-mark descriptiveness problems (see, e.g., here and here) and some strategies for avoiding and overcoming descriptiveness rejections.

Under U.S. trademark law, a mark that is merely descriptive of the goods or services it is being used to market or sell is not registrable on the Principal Register without demonstrating secondary meaning, i.e., that consumers have come to associate the mark with the source of the goods or services.

One strategy I haven’t written about before, which marketers like to use for general purposes but also can occasionally help with descriptiveness problems, is to slightly alter a known term.  This could consist of changing the spelling of a word (e.g., NU-ENAMEL and QUIK-PRINT) or dropping a letter from a word (e.g., SNO-RAKE).

This is the approach SFS Intec (SFS) took for its SOL-R solar fastening system.

SFS filed a U.S. trademark application for SOL-R for goods including “flashing panels, and tiles incorporating metal frames for solar panels,” “metal cantilevered brackets for solar panels,” “ground supports of metal for solar panels,” “non-metal roof cladding and roofing elements for photovoltaic elements,” and “roofing…incorporating solar cells.”

The trademark examining attorney found that SOL-R is simply a novel spelling of the word “solar” and refused registration for being merely descriptive of the goods.  SFS appealed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (Board).

In a recent decision, the Board affirmed the refusal and held the SOL-R trademark merely descriptive.

As it starting point, the Board agreed that SOL-R is an alternative spelling of the word “solar” and would be perceived as such by consumers (and pronounced the same way).

The Board found, based on the goods listed in the application and some third-party websites in the record that also used “Sol-r” for solar-related goods, that the trademark is descriptive:

Based on the identification of goods and the excerpts from the third-party websites mentioned above, we find that the proposed mark SOL-R is merely descriptive of a significant feature or characteristic of Applicant’s identified goods.  No imagination is required by a purchaser or user to discern that the mark, when applied to the identified goods, describes products that are used on or in connection with solar panels and installations, and roofing that incorporates solar cells.

The Board gave no weight to the argument that the intentional misspelling of the word “solar” should save the mark and render it distinctive:

A slight misspelling of a merely descriptive word, such as “sol-r,” generally does not turn the descriptive word into an inherently distinctive trademark….Thus, Applicant’s proposed mark SOL-R does not become an inherently distinctive mark by the slight misspelling of the commonly used and understood descriptive term “solar.”

So, if considering a descriptive term as a trademark, better to spell it right and use another strategy.  Or just choose a different mark altogether.

Windows of Opportunity: Eco-mark Strategies for Green Coatings

December 8th, 2015 by Eric Lane No comments »

window

Where most of us just gaze through windows at the world outside, SolarWindow Technologies, Inc. (SolarWindow) and DryWired both look at them and see opportunities for clean tech innovation.  And both are examples of successful navigation of the federal trademark process for protecting their eco-marks.

SolarWindow sees windows as platforms for renewable energy generation.  The Maryland-based company makes a see-through solar energy generating coating technology for windows, particularly for application to tall towers and skyscrapers.

previous post, written when SolarWindow was called New Energy Technologies, discussed the company’s trouble with its SOLARWINDOW trademark application.

The word mark was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (Board) as merely descriptive of the technology.  U.S. trademark law’s prohibits registration of marks that are “merely descriptive” of the goods or services.

The Board found that the definitions of the individual words “SOLAR” and “WINDOW” and the descriptive use of the combined term in the industry rendered the trademark merely descriptive.  The Board noted the effect of the mark on relevant consumers:

[I]t is clear that SOLARWINDOW would immediately inform these consumers that applicant’s goods are used to convert existing windows or create windows that are capable of collecting and generating solar energy.

But SolarWindow’s branding bounced back, with a strategy of incorporating distinctive design elements to its trademark.  The result: diminished descriptiveness problems.  The company received a Notice of Allowance in Application No. 85/673,542 for its design mark with window elements:

SolarWindow Design Mark 1

A Notice of Allowance was also issued in Application No. 86/014,061 for the company’s design mark with square and circle:

SolarWindow Design Mark 2

SolarWindow has also filed Application No. 86/615,006 for another updated design mark with block and lines and Application No. 86/615,014 for the block and line design alone.

SolarWindow Technologies Design Mark

 

 

DW_Horizontal

DryWired, based in Los Angeles, makes liquid nanotechnology for windows that shields against energy loss by reducing heat transfer through the coated windows.

Sold under the brand name Liquid NanoTint, the translucent coating uses a combination of solvent borne tin-oxide based nano-particles and an inorganic adhesive binder.

It’s essentially nanotech insulation, forming a 10-micron thick self-leveling coat that bonds directly to glass and protects the inside of the building from the sun’s UV rays and reduces infrared heat transfer to keep the indoor environment cooler in summer and prevent heat loss in the winter.

DryWired owns Application No. 86/396,246 No. for the trademark LIQUID NANOTINT for “antimony tin oxide based liquid thermal insulation nanocoatings for glass.”  The application easily passed through examination and will be registered shortly.

Should you feel the need to go window shopping for some green window dressing this holiday season, you’ll know who to call.

Oscilla’s Power Bars Generate Energy from Waves

December 1st, 2015 by Eric Lane No comments »

Oscilla logo

I recently read an interesting article about Oscilla Power, a Seattle-based company that makes wave power generators.

Oscilla’s wave energy harvesters are based on a phenomenon called magnetostriction, a property of some ferromagnetic materials to change their shape slightly in the presence of a magnetic field.

However, Oscilla applies this process in reverse – called reverse magnetostriction – by applying stresses or strains to the materials so their magnetic characteristics change.  When coupled with a generator that has permanent magnets and wire coils, the process generates electricity.

Oscilla owns a number of patents and pending applications covering its technology, including two related U.S. Patent Nos. 7,816,797, and 7,964,977, entitled “Method and device for harvesting energy from ocean waves.”

These patents are directed to a device (100) for harvesting energy from the oscillations of ocean waves (102).  The core modules of the device (100) include at least one buoy (104) attached to magnetorestrictive elements (106) via tethers (110).

797 FIG. 1

The magnetorestrictive elements (106) are anchored to the seafloor or to another rigid body using anchors or weights (108).

According to the Economist piece, the magnetorestrictive elements are bars made from a strongly magnetic alloy of iron and aluminum.  These bars need be compressed only very slightly (one part in 10,000) to generate electricity.

Even such a tiny compression takes a large force when the bar is made of solid metal, but ocean waves have sufficient power to generate the required force and do so by oscillation.  Oscilla’s generators have two large objects connected by cables:

Oscilla Pic

A buoy floating on the surface of the ocean contains the generating apparatus of alloy bars, magnets and coils, as well as sets of hydraulic rams which can squeeze the bars.  The cables connect the buoy to a heave plate maintained in a stationary position.

As the buoy rises and falls with the waves at the surface and the heave plate stays still, the tension on the cables increases and decreases.  The changing tension drives the rams and produces electricity.

Because the generators operate on changing tension, they don’t need to employ lot of moving parts and should therefore be more reliable than conventional wave power generators.

After a successful trial of a four-meter prototype last year, Oscilla hopes to build a full-scale device by 2018.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

November 19th, 2015 by Jayne Saydah No comments »

Several new green patent complaints were filed in September and October in the areas of LEDs, smart grid, smart meters and wastewater handling.

 

Smart Grid

JSDQ Mesh Technologies LLC v. Silver Springs, Inc. and Pepco Holdings, Inc.

JSDQ filed a patent infringement lawsuit on September 10, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

This complaint accuses Silver Springs and Pepco of infringing three U.S. Patents Nos. 7,286,828 entitled “Method of Call Routing and Connection,” RE43,675 entitled “Wireless Radio Routing System,” and RE44,607 entitled, “Wireless Mesh Routing Method.”

The technology involved in the suit includes Silver Springs’ Smart Grid Mesh Network solutions, which the complaint alleges includes a wireless routing system and an Aerohive routing system used in conjunction with directional radio signals.

The complaint alleges Pepco is infringing the patents through its use of Silver Springs’ Smart Grid Mesh Network and associated products and services.

 

Smart Meters

 Transdata, Inc. v. Landis+Gyr, Inc. and Landis+Gyr Technology, Inc.

Transdata, Inc. v. Itron, Inc.

Transdata, Inc. v. General Electric Company and GE Energy Management Services, Inc.

On September 11, 2015, TransData filed three separate complaints in federal court in Tyler, Texas.

Each of the three complaints corresponds to a different defendant(s) (see the complaints here, here, and here), but each complaint asserts the same three patents.  These complaints follow a long list of consolidated “smart meter” cases, and in each complaint, Transdata notes that the defendant(s) indemnified and/or defended other defendant(s) in the earlier consolidated cases.

Two of the asserted patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 6,181,294 (‘294 Patent)and 6,462,713 (‘713 Patent) are related and entitled “Antenna for Electric Meter and Manufacture Thereof.”  The third patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,903,699, entitled “Wireless Communication Device for Electric Meter and Method of Manufacture Thereof,” is a continuation-in-part of ‘713 and continuation of ‘294.

These patents describe an electric meter capable of bi-directional communication over a wireless network.  The meter is equipped with wireless communication circuitry and an antenna allowing the meter to wirelessly send usage data to a remote location and wirelessly, receive operational instructions from the remote location.

For a more detailed discussion of the patented meter technology and discussion of earlier case, see our previous post here.

Numerous industrial and residential electric meters made by the defendants are at issue in these cases.

The Landis+Gyr products include residential meters containing the Landis+Gyr Gridstream RF Mesh Residential Endpoint; industrial and commercial meters containing Landis+Gyr Gridstream RF Mesh Commercial  and Industrial Endpoint; and meters with the AMI communication modules and antenna.

The Itron and General Electric meters include various residential and industrial meters equipped with under-the-glass wireless communication modules and meters with the AMI communication modules and antenna.

 

LEDs

Global Tech LED, LLC. V. Every Watt Matters, LLC and DRK Enterprises, Inc.

Global Tech LED, LLC V. Hilumnz International Corp., Hilumnz, LLC and Hilumnz USA, LLC

Global Tech LED filed a complaint against Every Watt Matters and DRK (“EWM”) on September 14, 2015 and a complaint against Hilumnz on September 15, 2015.

Both complaints were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida and allege the defendant(s) infringed U.S. Patent No. 9,091,424, entitled “LED Light Bulb.”

The patent pertains to an LED device that can replace or retrofit a light bulb in an electrical socket.  The LED device has a screw connector for screwing into a light bulb socket.  A bracket connects the screw portion to the housing, which holds one or more LEDs.  The housing can rotate to direct the light from the LED and contains an electrically powered cooling fan to dissipate heat generated by LED.

Both complaints allege EWM and Hilumnz offer for sale infringing LED lamp products.  The Hilumnz complaint also alleges that Hilumnz offers for sale various Retrofit Kits.

 

Wastewater Handling

Liberty Pumps Inc. v. Franklin Electric Co., Inc.

On October 23, 2015, Liberty Pumps Inc. (“Liberty”) filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.  The complaint alleges Franklin Electric Co. Inc. (Franklin) is infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 8,523,532 (‘532 Patent) and 8,888,465 (‘465 Patent) entitled, “Sewage Handling System, Cover and Controls.”

The ‘532 and ‘465 Patents describe a basin/pump assembly for moving liquids such as sewage.  If a bathroom is lower than a household sewer effluent pipe, this assembly would pump the bathroom wastewater to the level of sewer effluent pipe.

The assembly has a basin with a bottom, sides and a hanging feature formed into the basin.  The hanging feature has a hanging portion with a level switch.  A pump is disposed in the basin.  Also, the basin may have a cover assembly that can be fastened to the open top of the basin.

The accused products include Franklin’s LittleGIANT Pit+Plus Sewage Basin.

 

Jayne Saydah is a registered patent attorney with experience prosecuting patent applications for a broad range of technologies.  She has a B.S. in Environmental Engineering and an interest in protecting the intellectual property rights of any environmentally conscience inventions and businesses.

Supremes’ Alice Ruling Drowns Water Treatment Patent

November 10th, 2015 by Eric Lane No comments »

A Green Patent Complaint Update post reported on the patent infringement suit between Neochloris and Emerson Process Management Power & Water Solutions.  Citgo was also named as a defendant.

In the lawsuit, Neochloris accused Emerson and Citgo of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,845,336 (‘336 Patent).

The ‘336 Patent is entitled “Water treatment monitoring system” and directed to a monitoring system to receive data from water sensors, analyze water quality conditions inputted by the sensors and predict effluent water quality and process upsets.  The monitoring system includes an artificial neural network module to determine solutions to actual and potential water quality and process upsets.

The defendants jointly moved for summary judgment that the ‘336 Patent is invalid because it covers non-patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  Section 101 of U.S. patent law delineates the broad categories of subject matter deemed eligible for patent protection.

These comprise “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof…”

Generally excluded from eligibility are laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas.  Patentable subject matter has been in flux for the last several years and recent case law has rendered previously eligible areas such as business methods and software very difficult to patent.

In a recent decision, Judge Edmond E. Chang of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted the summary judgment motion, ruling that the ‘336 Patent protects an unpatentable abstract idea.

The court’s decision began with a summary of the asserted claims of the ‘336 Patent, stating that they describe a method for:

  1. collecting data at a water treatment plant;
  2. sending the data over an internet connection to a computer;
  3. monitoring and analyzing the data with an ordinary computer and software; and
  4. alerting the facility of any abnormalities.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice v. CLS Bank decision laid out the current analysis for determining patentable subject matter under Section 101.  The first question is whether the claims are “directed to a patent ineligible concept” on their face.  If so, the second question is whether the claims nonetheless contain an “inventive concept” that can make the concept a patent eligible invention.

Judge Chang concluded that the claims of the ‘336 Patent cover an abstract idea:

[A]t bottom, the claims cover the general process of observing, analyzing, monitoring, and alerting that can be done entirely by the human mind and by using pen and paper….the Federal Circuit has determined that collecting and processing data is an abstract idea.

The court went on to find that the claims do not contain any inventive concept.  Neochloris argued that the claims have three patent-eligible inventive features:  the use of computers and software, the ability to predict future failure events, and the ability to reduce human error.

However, the court found all of these functions to be conventional and that the claims of the ‘336 Patent merely recite basic computer functions:

[T]he ‘336 patent employs any “monitoring computer” and any “software” to perform basic computer functions.  The computer and software simply make routine calculations to monitor and analyze water data.  The claims are not limited to any particular software or hardware, and this generic technology has no special capabilities that “improve the functioning of the computer itself” or “effect an improvement in any other technology or technical field.”  Because the addition of a computer and software in the ‘336 patent “does no more than require a generic computer to perform generic computer functions,” this generic technology does not save the ‘336 patent.

Similarly, the ability of the patented system to predict future failure events, even if it is better than could be done by a human operator, is not inventive:

There is no inventive concept when a computer just replicates what a person can do, only more quickly and accurately.

Finally, the court found that reducing human error “only describes the generic ability of a computer to work more accurately and does not make the claim inventive.”

With software so integral to so many environmental and other green technologies, this surely is not the last we’ll see of Alice impacting green patents.