Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

September 23rd, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

A number of new green patent infringement complaints were filed in July and August in the areas of advanced batteries, biofuels, LEDs, and electric motors.

 

Advanced Batteries

Dynavair LLC v. AMS USA, Inc.; Dynavair v. Atmel; Dyanavair v. Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions; Dynavair v. Eaton; Dynavair v. Freescale Semiconductor; Dynavair v. Intersil; Dynavair v. Linear Technology; Dynavair v. Microchip Technology; Dynavair v. OKW Electronics; Dynavair v. Samsung SDI America; Dynavair v. SII Semiconductor; Dynavair v. Texas Instruments

Dynavair has initiated at least twelve lawsuits accusing, inter alia, AMS USA, Atmel, Eaton, Freescale Semiconductor, Samsung, and Texas Instruments of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,271,645 (‘645 Patent).

A representative complaint, filed July 5, 2016 in federal court in Marshall, Texas, against AMS lists AMS’s AS8506C Battery Cell Monitor and Balancer IC as the accused instrumentality.  According to the complaint, the product balances energy levels between two battery groups in a battery pack.

The ‘645 Patent is entitled “Method for balancing battery pack energy levels” and directed to a method and circuit for balancing energy levels among first and second battery groups within a battery pack by controlling a first energy level responsive to a first state of charge value indicative of a first energy level of the first battery group and a second energy level responsive to a second state of charge value indicative of the energy level of the second battery group so as to balance the first and second energy levels.

Biofuels

DSM IP Assets et al. v. Lallemand Specialties, Inc. et al.

Filed July 13, 2016 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, DSM’s complaint accuses Lallemand and Mascoma LLC of infringing a patent relating to yeast products used in ethanol production.

U.S. Patent No. 8,795,998 is entitled “Fermentative glycerol-free ethanol production” and directed to transgenic yeast cells that reduce or eliminate the production of glycerol during fermentation.

More particularly, the patent relates to a recombinant yeast cell lacking enzymatic activity needed for the NADH-dependent glycerol synthesis or the cell having reduced enzymatic activity with respect to the NADH-dependent glycerol synthesis.

The accused products are yeast products, including Lallemand’s TransFerm Yield+ yeast.

LEDs

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Titch Industries, Inc. et al.

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Shenzhen Jiawei Photovoltaic Lighting Co.

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Satco Products, Inc.

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Technical Consumer Products, Inc.

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Wangs Alliance Corporation et al.

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Amax Lighting

Lighting Science Group filed at least six more infringement suits in July, asserting various combinations of the following three patents: U.S. Patent No. 8,201,968 (‘968 Patent), U.S. Patent No. 8,967,844 (‘844 Patent), and U.S. Patent No. 8,672,518 (‘518 Patent).

Entitled “Low profile light,” the ’968 Patent is directed to a luminaire including a heat spreader and a heat sink disposed outboard of the heat spreader, an outer optic securely retained relative to the heat spreader and/or the heat sink, and an LED light source.

The ‘518 Patent and the’ 844 Patent are entitled “Low profile light and accessory kit for the same” and relate to LSG’s disc light LED devices.

With the exception of the Shenzhen complaint, filed July 11, 2016 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, all of the lawsuits were filed in Orlando, Florida.  The Titch complaint was filed July 7th; the Satco complaint and the Technical Consumer Products complaint were filed July 13th; the Wangs Alliance complaint and the Amax Lighting complaint were filed July 22nd.

 

Lexington Luminance LLC v. TCL Multimedia Holdings, Ltd. et al.

In a complaint filed July 13, 2016 in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Lexington Luminance accused TCL Multimedia Holdings and TTE Technology of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,936,851 (‘851 Patent).

The ‘851 Patent is entitled “Semiconductor light-emitting device and method for manufacturing the same” and is directed to LEDs having textured districts on the substrate such that inclined layers guide extended defects to designated gettering centers in the trench region where the defects combine with each other.  This structure reduces the defect density of the LEDs.

The accused products include television model 40FD2700 using backlighting LEDS which, according to the complaint, use an infringing patterned sapphire substrate.

 

Lemaire Illumination Technologies, LLC v. LG Electronics USA, Inc. et al.

Lemaire Illumination Technologies sued LG for alleged infringement of three patents relating to LED lighting technology.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,095,661 (‘661 Patent), 6,488,390 (‘390 Patent) and 9,119,266 (‘266 Patent).

The ‘661 Patent is entitled “Method and apparatus for an L.E.D. flashlight” and the ‘390 Patent is entitled “Color-adjusted camera light and method” and these related patents are directed to an LED flashlight including  a control circuit for maintaining a predetermined light output level of the LED units as a charge on a battery varies.

The ‘266 Patent is entitled “Pulsed L.E.D. illumination apparatus and method” and directed to an illumination source for a camera including one or more LEDs and a control circuit for driving the LEDs with electrical pulses at a frequency high enough that light produced has an appearance to a human user of being continuous rather than pulsed.

Filed in federal court in Marshall, Texas on July 14, 2016, the complaint lists the LG G3 and G4 smartphones as accused devices.

 

Nichia Corporation v. Mary Elle Fashions, Inc. et al.

Nichia Corporation v. Lowe’s Companies, Inc. et al.

Nichia Corporation v. TCL Multimedia Technology Holdings, Ltd. et al.

Nichia filed these three lawsuits in July and August asserting U.S. Patent No. 7,915,631 (‘631 Patent) against Mary Elle Fashions, Lowe’s, and TCL.

The complaint against Mary Elle Fashions was filed July 19, 2016 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and lists the Meridian 13w Equivalent Bright White G24 Non-Dimmable LED Bulb as the accused product.

The Lowe’s complaint, filed July 19, 2016 in federal court in Statesville, North Carolina, alleges that the Utilitech Pro 48-inch Strip Light and the Utilitech Pro 24-inch Strip Light infringe the ‘631 Patent.

The complaint against TCL was filed August 8, 2016 in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware and names the TCL 48″ Class Television as the accused product.

Entitled “Light emitting device and display,” the ‘631 Patent is directed to an LED having a phosphor capable of absorbing a part of light emitted by a light emitting component and emitting light of a wavelength different from that of the absorbed light.

 

Nichia Corporation v. v. TCL Multimedia Technology Holdings, Ltd. et al.

Separately, Nichia also sued TCL in federal court in Marshall, Texas allegint that the TCL 55GS3700 55 inch 1080p Roku Smart LED TV infringes U.S. Patent No. 8,530,250 (‘250 Patent).

Entitled “Light emitting device, resin package, resin-molded body, and methods for manufacturing light emitting device, resin package and resin-molded body,” the ‘250 Patent is directed to a method of manufacturing an LED such that the optical reflectivity at a wavelength of 350-800 nm after thermal curing is 70% or more.

The method includes the steps of sandwiching a leadframe with a notched section, transfer-molding a thermosetting resin containing a light-reflecting substance, forming a resin-molded body on the leadframe, and cutting the resin-molded body and the leadframe along the notched section.

The complaint was filed August 8, 2016.

 

Seoul Viosys Co., Ltd. v. P3 International Corporation

This lawsuit was filed August 8, 2016 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

In the suit, Seoul accuses P3 of infringing five LED patents:

U.S. Patent No. 7,982,207, entitled “Light emitting diode”

U.S. Patent No. 7,951,626, entitled “Light emitting device and method of manufacturing the same”

U.S. Patent No. 9,203,006, entitled “Light emitting device”

U.S. Patent No. 8,692,282, entitled “Light emitting diode package and light emitting module comprising the same”

U.S. Patent No. 8,168,988, entitled “Light emitting element with a plurality of cells bonded, method of manufacturing the same, and light emitting device using the same”

The accused products listed in the complaint include P3’s P7880 LED Bug Trap and P7885 LED Bug Trapper II.

 

Philips Lighting North America Corp. et al. v. GVA Lighting, Inc.

Philips has asserted four of its LED patents against Canadian company GVA, alleging that GVA’s STR9 RGBW linear surface mount LED luminaires infringe the patents.

The patents-in-suit are:

U.S. Patent No. 6,692,136, entitled “LED/phosphor-LED hybrid lighting systems”

U.S. Patent No. 6,788,011, entitled “Multicolored LED lighting method and apparatus”

U.S. Patent No. 7,014,336, entitled “Systems and methods for generating and modulating illumination conditions”

U.S. Patent No. 7,255,457, entitled “Methods and apparatus for generating and modulating illumination conditions”

The complaint was filed August 11, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

 

Bitro Group v. Blueview Elec-Optic Tech

Bitro Group v. Global Lux

Bitro Group v. Jb Online LLC dba Ellumiglow.com

Bitro Group v. LEDwholesalers.com

Bitro Group v. The LED Light, Inc.

Bitro Group filed five lawsuits on August 16, 2016 against various defendants asserting infringement of U.S. Patent No. 9,113,558 (‘558 Patent).

The ‘558 Patent is entitled “LED mount bar capable of freely forming curved surfaces thereon” and directed to an LED tape light strip with a structure that allows it to be bent in the direction of its width so it can be used for lighting that must conform to unique shapes.

The complaints (Blueview Elec-Optic complaintGlobal Lux complaintJB Online complaintLEDwholesalers.com complaintThe LED Light complaint) were all filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

The accused products are Blue View Elec-Optic’s Bendable Zig Zag LED tape, Global Lux’s Zigzag Ribbon lights, JB Online’s Wavelux Bendable 3528 LED Strip Light, LEDwholesalers’ Ultra-Flex 6.56-Feet Single Color LED Strip, and the LED Light’s Bendable Flexible LED Strips.

 

Innovative Display Technologies LLC v. LG Display Co. et al.

U.S. Patent Nos. 7,322,730, entitled “Light emitting panel assemblies” (‘730 Patent) and 7,178,965, entitled “Light emitting panel assemblies having LEDs of multiple colors” (‘965 Patent).

The ‘730 and ‘965 Patents relate to optical assemblies including a light emitter having at least one layer of a transparent film, sheet or plate through which light emitted by the light emitter passes.  A pattern of deformities on or in at least one side of the film, sheet or plate control an output ray angle distribution of light emitted by the optical assemblies.

The complaint was filed August 24, 2016 in federal court in Marshall, Texas.

The accused products are various mobile phones, tablets, televisions, monitors, laptops, and liquid crystal display modules containing edge-lit and/or 2-D array backlights.

 

Epistar Corporation v. Adamax, Inc.

In this action, filed August 30, 2016 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Epistar has asserted six patents relating to LED filament technology.

U.S. Patent No. 6,346,771, entitled “High power LED lamp”

U.S. Patent No. 6,489,068, entitled “Process for observing overlay errors on lithographic masks”

U.S. Patent No. 7,560,738, entitled “Light-emitting diode array having an adhesive layer”

U.S. Patent No. 8,240,881, entitled “Light-emiting device package”

U.S. Patent No. 8,791,467, entitled “Light emitting diode and method of making the same”

U.S. Patent No. 9,065,022, entitled “Light emitting apparatus”

The complaint names Adamax’s NewHouse Lighting Dimmable Flame Tip 3.5 W LED Vintage Edison Filament Bulb, 2200K as infringing products.

Electric Motors

Cannarella v. Volvo Car USA LLC et al.

An individual inventor, R. Thomas Cannarella, sued Volvo and others alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,232,661 (‘661 Patent).

The ‘661 Patent is entitled “System and method for generating and storing clean energy” and directed to a system for generating electrical energy from pressurized fluid and peristaltic compression and expansion cycles.

Filed August 17, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the complaint alleges that the defendants have made a commercial entitled “Highway Robbery: Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Hybrid” featuring an infringing peristaltic energy generation system.

Eco-mark Update: A New Green Certification for Evaluating Power System Performance

September 12th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

peer-logo_0

A new green certification has been added to the eclectic mix of independent third-party indicators of environmentally beneficial products, systems, buildings, etc.

Administered by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), which also runs the LEED certification for green buildings, the PEER certification (for Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal) measures power system performance.

More particularly, according to the PEER overview page:

PEER evaluates power generation, transmission, and distribution systems across desired outcomes of optimal efficiency, quality, reliability, and resiliency, and with minimized impact to the environment…PEER addresses power generation, transmission, and distribution–from the time it leaves the generator until it reaches the customer.

PEER includes a screening process to provide independent assessments of power system projects and a rating system for potential certification.

The rating system has four outcome-based credit categories and 68 credits.  Reliability & Resilience credits address power quality, supply availability, interruptions, risk mitigation, restoration, redundancy and microgrid capabilities.

Energy Efficiency & Environment credits address energy efficiency of power delivery, air emissions, resource use, renewable energy credits and power delivery impacts.

Operational Effectiveness credits address electricity costs, asset utilization, load shaping, general operation expenses, capital spending or investment, corrective maintenance and indirect costs.

Customer Contribution credits address customer grid service capability, meter data access, tools, choice, incentives and dynamic pricing.

According to the PEER web site, the new certification is important because of the environmental costs of relying on traditional energy sources and the costs of poor power quality:

Electricity is lost through conversion and waste, which has a negative impact on the environment as well as the economy. Reliance on non-renewable energy sources threatens our environment. Poor power quality can damage electrical devices. Power outages, usually as a result of severe weather, costs the economy billions of dollars a year and poses risks to critical infrastructure.

A search of the federal trademark records shows that GBCI owns U.S. Service Mark Registration No. 4,683,005 for the mark PERFORMANCE EXCELLENCE IN ELECTRICITY RENEWAL for the following services in Class 41:

Education services, namely, providing courses and classes for teaching professionals in the fields of achieving a standard level of performance in terms of electricity sustainability including: reliability, power, quality, safety, energy efficiency, environment, cost efficiency, and customer engagement

While educational services are important, given the central focus on independent certification, it seems odd that GBCI hasn’t applied for a certification mark registration for the word PEER, the full phrase, and/or the PEER logo shown above.

Certification marks differ from ordinary trademarks and service marks in that, instead of indicating the commercial source of a product or service, they communicate that goods or services meet certain quality or manufacturing standards.  They are owned not by the individual businesses, but by the organizations that set the standards.

For further discussion of certification marks see my previous posts here, here, and here.

Regardless of its trademark protection strategy, GBCI remains a force in green certifications and the new PEER certification has the potential to have a major positive impact on power generation, transmission, and distribution.

Court Holds Grid Monitoring Patents Invalid; Collecting Info is Unpatentable Abstract Idea

August 30th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

A prior post reported on the litigation between Electric Power Group (EPG) and Alstom Grid.

The lawsuit, filed in the Central District of California, alleged that Alstom’s “PhasorPoint” and “e-terravision” solutions infringed U.S. Patent Nos. 8,060,2597,233,843, and 8,401,710 (EPG Patents).

The EPG Patents relate to wide-area real-time performance monitoring systems for monitoring and assessing dynamic stability of an electric power grid.

More particularly, the patents describe and claim systems and methods for performing real-time performance monitoring of an electric power grid by collecting data from multiple data sources, analyzing the data, and displaying the results.

In an opinion issued earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held the EPG Patents invalid under Section 101 of the Patent Act for failing the test for patent eligibility.  The decision affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment.

Section 101 defines the subject matter eligible for patenting and, according to the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l, “contains an important implicit exception:  Laws of natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable” concepts.

Alice set out a two-stage Section 101 inquiry for determining patent eligibility.  Stage one asks whether a patent claim is directed to one of the three non-patent eligible concepts.

If so, at stage two, the court asks whether the particular elements of the claim add enough to “transform the nature of the claim into a patent-eligible application.”

According to the Federal Circuit, because the claims of the EPG Patents are directed to collecting and analyzing information and displaying certain results of the collection and analysis, they “fall into a familiar class of claims ‘directed to” a patent-ineligible concept.”

More particularly, information is an intangible, and collecting information is an abstract idea:

[W]e have treated collecting information, including when limited to particular content (which does not change its character as information), as within the realm of abstract ideas.

Furthermore, the court found the patents’ improvement of focusing on specific content to be collected and analyzed not sufficiently innovative:

The advance [the EPG Patents] purport to make is a process of gathering and analyzing information of a specified content, then displaying the results, and not any particular assertedly inventive technology for performing those functions.  They are therefore directed to an abstract idea.

Turning to stage two of the Alice framework, the Federal Circuit did not find anything added to the claims or any limitations that would remove them from the realm of abstract ideas and make them patent-eligible.  Limiting them to the power-grid monitoring space was not enough:

Most obviously, limiting the claims to the particular technological environment of power-grid monitoring is, without more, insufficient to transform them into patent-eligible applications of the abstract idea at their core.

Much of the content of the claims of the EPG Patents, the court observed, was “devoted to enumerating types of information and information sources available within the power-grid environment.”  Merely selecting that information does not “differentiate a process from ordinary mental processes.”

According to the court, the claims did not require any inventive set of components or methods, such as measurement devices or techniques, do not generate new data, and do not invoke any inventive programming.  They also do not require anything other than off-the-shelf, conventional computer network and display technology.

Thus, the court held that the EPG Patent claims “do not state an arguably inventive concept in the realm of application of the information-based abstract ideas” and are therefore invalid.

The Federal Circuit closed its opinion with some tough words from the district court about the EPG Patents that allude to a public policy rationale for invalidating the patents:

[R]ather than claiming “some specific way of enabling a computer to monitor data from multiple sources across an electric power grid,” some “particular implementation,” they “purport to monopolize every potential solution to the problem” – any way of effectively monitoring multiple sources on a power grid.

Some might say that alone is reason to invalidate the patents.

Master of its Domain: Infringement Verdict Could Mean Dominion Dominance in Advanced Metering

August 19th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

Untitled

Once in a long while a green patent lawsuit comes along that has the potential to have a major impact on a clean technology sector.

A few that come to mind are GE’s litigation with Mitsubishi involving, among others, U.S. Patent No. 5,083,039, a seminal patent on variable speed wind technology, Paice’s epic battle with Toyota over the hybrid vehicle technology used in the Prius, and the biofuels patent litigation between BP-DuPont joint venture Butamax and the advanced biofuels company Gevo.

We may have witnessed another one this summer, with the announcement last month by Dominion Voltage, Inc. (Dominion) that a jury found Alstom Grid infringed a Dominion patent relating to voltage reduction in advanced metering infrastructure.

Dominion filed an infringement complaint against Alstom Grid in January 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The asserted patents were U.S. Patent Nos. 8,577,510 and 8,437,883 (‘883 Patent), related patents each entitled “Voltage conservation using advanced metering infrastructure and substation centralized voltage control.”

The patents, one a continuation of the other, are directed to voltage control and energy conservation systems where a plurality of sensors sense voltages of the supplied electric power at distribution locations and generate measurement data based on the sensed voltages.

A voltage controller generates an energy delivery parameter based on a comparison of the measurement data received from the sensors to a controller target voltage band, and a voltage adjusting device adjusts a voltage of the electric power supplied at the supply point based on the energy delivery parameter.

If that concept seems broad to you, it is, and the folks at Greentech Media thought so too.  In this piece reporting on the lawsuit, GTM said the asserted Dominion patents “appear to hold pretty broad claim over the very idea of using distributed sensors for grid voltage management.”

According to GTM, the patented technology is embodied in Dominion’s commercial products and is pervasive in the smart meter industry today:

That’s the technology behind DVI’s EDGE control platform, now in use by utilities across the country, and using smart meters and networks from a list of vendor partners including Silver Spring Networks, Elster and Landis+Gyr.

And now at least one of the major commercial users of the technology has been found to infringe of the patents.  According to the Dominion press release, the jury in the lawsuit returned a verdict of infringement, finding the ‘883 patent valid and infringed by Alstom Grid (now owned by GE).

The jury also found that Alstom “induced infringement through the installation of its distribution management system at a customer location.”

Dominion is likely to seek an injunction to stop Alstom Grid from installing and using the infringing products.  However, these cases more often result in a license negotiated by the parties including some sort of royalty payment.

In any event, Dominion is now in a very strong position in the smart meter-enabled grid voltage control space.  According to GTM, which covered the jury verdict here, the company is the U.S. leader in this market and now “has a jury verdict to protect the technology behind that market dominance.”

Fiddler on the Roof: FTC to be More Active in Rooftop Solar?

August 9th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

rooftop solar

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been very active in combating greenwashers, those advertisers and marketers of green products and services that make false or deceptive claims of environmental benefits.

America’s consumer watchdog agency has addressed greenwashing in two ways.   First, the agency has attempted to preempt it through guidance to advertisers in its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, commonly know as the Green Guides, which provide a framework for green marketers to formulate permissible environmental benefit claims for products and services.

Second, the FTC has undertaken a number of enforcement actions against greenwashers, including against an LED manufacturer for misleading environmental benefit claims and a recent lawsuit against Volkswagen on behalf of consumers.

In a recent piece published on Law360, three attorneys from the WilmerHale law firm wrote that the FTC appears poised to take a more active role in the area of rooftop solar installations.

A workshop held by the FTC in June examined consumer protection issues in the rooftop solar industry, which operates amid a “complex matrix of laws, regulations, policies, subsidies and incentives.”

According to the article, the FTC believes it has the expertise to protect consumers of rooftop solar installations:

The FTC has taken the position that it is “uniquely positioned” to ensure that “consumers are well-informed about its pros and cons and the options available to them” regarding rooftop solar generation.

The agency, of course, has the authority to target deceptive advertising, and it noted at the workshop that the Green Guides are applicable to the marketing of rooftop solar installations.

Furthermore, the FTC has issued “Solar Power for Your Home” guidance for consumers and recently opened an enforcement action relating to allegedly illegal robocalls for solar marketing.

While a number of state officials believe primary regulatory responsibility for the rooftop solar industry should be on the state level, the article said, they recognize that the FTC could play a role in identifying best practices and consumer communication templates.

So we can expect to see more from the FTC to keep greenwashing in check as the rooftop solar industry expands.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Upate

July 29th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

A number of new green patent infringement complaints were filed in May and June in the areas of green cleaning solvents, LEDs, lighting control technology, smart thermostats, smart meters, and water meters.

 

Green Cleaning Solvents

GreenEarth Cleaning, LLC v. Kings Park Green Cleaners, LLC

This action for patent infringement, trademark infringement, and breach of contract was filed June 21, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Although the complaint lists nine patents, there is only one count of patent infringement asserting U.S. Patent No. 5,942,007 (‘007 Patent).

The ‘007 Patent is entitled “Dry cleaning method and solvent” and directed to dry cleaning methods comprising the steps of immersing clothes in a dry cleaning fluid including a cyclic siloxane composition, agitating the clothes in the composition, and then removing the cyclic siloxane composition by centrifugal action and air circulation.

According to the Abstract of the ‘007 Patent, the “cyclic-siloxane-based solvent allows the system to result in an environmentally friendly process which is, also, more effective in cleaning fabrics and the like than any known prior system.”

GreenEarth alleges that Kings Park, which had a license from GreenEarth, continues to use liquid silicone as a dry cleaning solvent though it is no longer a licensee.

 

LEDs

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Hubbell Inc. et al.

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. American De Rosa Lamparts, LLC

Lighting Science filed both of these lawsuits in federal court in Orlando, Florida on June 21, 2016.

Both complaints assert U.S. Patent No. 8,201,968 (‘968 Patent), U.S. Patent No. 8,967,844 (‘844 Patent), and U.S. Patent No. 8,672,518 (‘518 Patent).

Entitled “Low profile light,” the ’968 Patent is directed to a luminaire including a heat spreader and a heat sink disposed outboard of the heat spreader, an outer optic securely retained relative to the heat spreader and/or the heat sink, and an LED light source.

The ‘518 Patent and the’ 844 Patent are entitled “Low profile light and accessory kit for the same” and relate to LSG’s disc light LED devices.

Hubbell’s “Surface Mount” family of products are the subject of the Hubbell complaint, and the American De Rosa complaint lists the F9908-30, F9901-30-1, F9904-30-1, and F9906-30-1 products.

 

Nichia Corporation v. Mary Elle Fashions, Inc.

Nichia Corporation v. Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

Nichia Corporation v. Feit Electric Company, Inc.

These three actions, filed June 13, 2016, accuse each defendant of infringing U.S. Patent No. 8,530,250 (‘250 Patent).

Entitled “Light emitting device, resin package, resin-molded body, and methods for manufacturing light emitting device, resin package and resin-molded body,” the ‘250 Patent is directed to a method of manufacturing an LED such that the optical reflectivity at a wavelength of 350-800 nm after thermal curing is 70% or more.

The method includes the steps of sandwiching a leadframe with a notched section, transfer-molding a thermosetting resin containing a light-reflecting substance, forming a resin-molded body on the leadframe, and cutting the resin-molded body and the leadframe along the notched section.

The Mary Elle Fashions complaint lists as accused products the Meridian CFL Plus and the LED Night Light, the Lowe’s complaint lists the Utilitech Pro 24-in Strip Light and LED Bulb, and the Feit Electric complaint lists the BPOM60/830/LED Bulb and the LG2560/CL/LEDG2 Bulb.

 

DeNovo Lighting, LLC v. Norman Lamps, Inc.

DeNovo sued Norman Lamps for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,729,809, entitled “Voltage regulating devices in LED lamps with multiple power sources” (‘809 Patent).

The ‘809 Patent is directed to an LED lamp having three voltage reducing devices, a voltage regulating circuit for providing linear current, the circuit not dependent on a voltage or electromagnetic induction power;,and at least two LEDs connected in series across the voltage regulating circuit.

The complaint, filed June 7, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that Norman’s Hybrid T8 lamps infringe the ‘809 Patent.

 

Philips Lighting North America Corporation et al. v. ikan Int’l, LLC

Philips has asserted more of its LED patents, this time against iKan in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

In a complaint filed May 31, 2016, Philips accused iKan of infringing the following patents:

U.S. Patent No. 6,692,136, entitled “LED/phosphor-LED hybrid lighting systems”

U.S. Patent No. 6,788,011, entitled “Multicolored LED lighting method and apparatus”

U.S. Patent No. 7,014,336, entitled “Systems and methods for generating and modulating illumination conditions”

U.S. Patent No. 7,180,252, entitled “Geometric panel lighting apparatus and methods”

U.S. Patent No. 7,255,457, entitled “Methods and apparatus for generating and modulating illumination conditions”

The accused products include various bi-color flood lights including the iLED 144, iLED 312-v2, IB-508-v2, StudioPRO 600, and Multi-K XL products.

 

Golight, Inc. v. Oracle Lighting, L.L.C.

Filed May 19, 2016 in the U.S.District Court for the District of Colorado, Golight’s lawsuit asserts U.S. Patent No. 9,255,687, entitled “LED system and housing for use with halogen light fixtures” (‘687 Patent).

The complaint alleges that Oracle’s 20W 4D Optic LED Square Spot and and 50 W LED portable search lights infringe the ‘687 Patent.

The ‘687 Patent is directed to an optical projection lens for mounting in front of LEDs.  The lens has a plurality of protrusions of varying thickness wherein the outermost edges of each protrusion has the thickest measurement, the center of each protrusion has the thinnest measurement, and the protrusions merge individual beams of light into a single beam of light.

 

LEDsOn et al. v. Qtran, Inc.

In an action for design patent infringement, LEDsON sued QTran,  on May 3, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

The patents-in-suit are:

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,683, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,684, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,681, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

The accused products are QTran’s IQA-RECD, IQA-45DN, and IQA-Flat LED-based lighting apparatus.

Smart Thermostats

FTC Sensors, LLC v. ecobee Inc.

In this action, filed in federal court in Marshall, Texas on June 1, 2016, FTC Sensors asserts three related sensor and transmission control patents.

According to the complaint, ecobee’s smart thermostat devices, including the Ecobee3 Thermostat, contain systems that infringe the three patents.

Each entitled “Sensor and transmission control circuit in adaptive interface package,” the patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,397,369, 7,696,870, and 8,421,621 (“Sensor Patents”).

The Sensor Patents are directed to a sensor system with a plurality of sensor modules. In a first mode, a linear voltage regulator provides a relatively small amount of power which allows a sensor module to output a signal responsive to detecting an environmental condition.

The interface module can switch the linear voltage regulator to a second mode in which the linear voltage regulator ramps up the amount of power provided to a detecting sensor module. The sensor module can then provide a level indicative of a concentration or intensity of the environmental condition. If the level surpasses a predetermined threshold, the sensor pack can output an alert signal to security server.

Smart Meters

TransData, Inc. v. CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC et al.

TransData has sued another utility, once again in federal court in Tyler, Texas on May 11, 2016.

The now-familiar (see previous posts, e.g., here and here) asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,181,294 (‘294 Patent)and 6,462,713 (‘713 Patent), each 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.

The complaint lists as accused products the Itron OpenWay Centron electric meter, the Landis+Gyr Focus AX electric meter, the General Electric I-210c electric meter, and the General Electric kV2c electric meter.

 

Water Meters

Badger Meter, Inc. v. Sensus USA Inc.

Sensus USA Inc. v. Badger Meter, Inc.

In a game of dueling lawsuits, Sensus filed a complaint on June 16, 2016 against Badger seeking a declaratory judgment of non-infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,539,827 (‘827 Patent), and Badger sued Sensus a week later alleging infringement of the ‘827 Patent.

Sensus sued in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California while Badger filed its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The Badger complaint alleges that Sensus’s Ally water meter infringes the ‘827 Patent, entitled “Water meter with integral flow restriction valve.

The ‘827 Patent is directed to a water meter and a flow control valve housed in a common pressure vessel, in which the flow control valve restricts flow through a metering chamber to less than the normal flow, while still permitting a flow sufficient for basic human needs, rather than completely interrupting supply of the utility.

Lighting Controls

SIPCO, LLC v. Acuity Brands, Inc. et al.

Filed June 23, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, the SIPCO complaint asserts six patents against Acuity.

SIPCO alleges that Acuity’s XPoint Wireless sensors and controllers infringe the patents.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,013,7327,697,4927,468,661, 6,437,692, 6,914,893, and 7,103,511, which relate to remote monitoring and control systems.

June 26th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

 

Green Patent Blog is on vacation.

Court Finds BU Delay OK in LED Patent Infringement Suit

June 17th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

BU

Previous posts, e.g., here and here, reported on Boston University’s LED patent enforcement activity.  A recent decision handed down by a Massachusetts federal court hearing infringement lawsuits against Epistar and Everlight Electronics made an interesting ruling on the defense of laches.

Laches is neglect or delay in bringing suit which causes harm to the adverse party.  A successful laches defense acts as an equitable bar on the plaintiff’s claim or can limit the time period for potential damages, reducing a defendant’s financial exposure.  One key question in a laches inquiry is when the plaintiff knew about a defendant’s infringement; plaintiff’s knowledge of infringement can start the laches period.

Accused of infringing U.S. Patent No. 5,686,738 (‘738 Patent), defendants Epistar and Everlight asserted the defense of laches, arguing that BU unreasonably delayed bringing suit against them, and the delay caused them economic prejudice.

The ‘738 Patent is entitled “Highly insulated monocrystalline gallium nitride thin films” and is directed to gallium nitride semiconductor devices and methods of preparing highly insulating GaN single crystal films in a molecular beam epitaxial growth chamber.

The laches issue was complicated by a timeline dating back to 2001 during which multiple parties, including predecessors of the defendants, were involved in selling allegedly infringing products and other parties licensed the ‘738 Patent.

In March 2001, BU and Cree entered into an exclusive license agreement, which required Cree to enforce the ‘738 Patent against infringers, but did not require Cree to bring more than one infringement suit at a time.  BU and Cree ended that arrangement in January 2012, and BU took back control of the ‘738 Patent.

According to the court decision, BU was aware of infringement as early as April 2002, when BU’s head of licensing wrote in an internal draft presentation that United Epitaxy was infringing the ‘738 Patent.  United Epitaxy (UE) merged with Epistar in 2005, and there is no evidence that Epistar continued to make UE products after the merger.

Epistar pointed to this knowledge of possible infringement by Epistar’s predecessor company UE to assert a “tacking” theory of laches, i.e., they urged the court to tack together the full period of time from the 2012 filing date of the lawsuit all the way back to BU’s knowledge of UE’s potential infringement in 2002.

However, Epistar could not show that the predecessor products the same or similar to the accused products in this case, so the court rejected the tacking argument:

Because Epistar failed to provide sufficient evidence that its predecessors’ products were the same or similar to the accused products in this case . . . Epistar’s “tacking argument fails.

The court found Cree was not aware of Epistar’s infringement until October 2010, which was a short enough period before BU brought the lawsuit that laches did not apply.

Everlight, on the other hand, succeeded in its tacking argument.  In May 2004, Cree accused Fairchild Semiconductor of infringing the ‘738 Patent; at that time, Everlight was making LED products for Fairchild based on Fairchild’s specifications.  In 2006, Everlight purchased Fairchild’s LED business assets.

The court therefore found tacking of infringement knowledge back to 2004 for Everlight and a presumption of laches:

[T]his Court finds that Everlight is the “successor-in-interest” to Fairchild’s LED business.  Because Everlight has satisfied the requirements for “tacking” and Cree knew of the Fairchild-Everlight LED business purchase in 2006, this Court finds that Cree’s knowledge of Everlight’s infringing activity “tacks” back to 2004, more than six years before BU filed this suit.  Therefore, the presumption of laches applies with respect to Everlight.

Although the 8-year period from 2004 to the lawsuit filing date in 2012 was reduced somewhat due to other factors, the court went on to find two sub-periods of time unreasonable:

[G]iven BU’s failure to provide any acceptable excused for the periods from May 2004 to September 2006, and from March 2009 to October 2012, BU has failed to rebut the presumption of laches and Everlight has proven that these delays were unreasonable.

But that wasn’t the end of the story; Everlight still had to show material economic prejudice as a result of BU’s unreasonable delay in bringing suit.

And that they failed to do.  Everlight could not provide the actual percentage of its costs directly attributable to designing packages for Epistar’s infringing LED chips or the economic impact of altering its production processes.

Everlight argued it could have stopped purchasing Epistar LED chips if BU had sued earlier.  However, Everlight had very close ties with Epistar, including holding $100 million in Epistar stock, such that any reduction in Epistar’s profits would have economically harmed Everlight.  Epistar also provided Everlight with its non-infringement analysis and denied infringement.

Accordingly, the court was not convinced that, had BU sued sooner, Everlight would have avoided infringement liability by ceasing its purchase of Epistar LED chips and altering its LED package design:

This Court finds it unlikely that, had BU sued earlier, Everlight – with its close ties to Epistar, Epistar’s noninfringement and invalidity analysis, and its indemnity agreement – would have ceased purchasing Epistar chips and altered its LED package design based on such a small percentage of its total worldwide sales.  Because Everlight has failed to prove a nexus between BU’s delay in filing suit and any economic prejudice, this Court finds for the plaintiff on the issue of laches with respect to Everlight.

Thus, the court went on to award BU $9.3 million in damages from Epistar and $4 million from Everlight, plus prejudgement and post judgement interest from both parties.

VW and Feds On Track to Settle; VW to Repair or Buy Back Cheating Vehicles

June 10th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

It’s hard to keep track of all of the developments in the Volkswagen emissions greenwashing scandal, and there’s much to catch up on.

First, the German automaker worked out the framework for potential settlement of a lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which filed a civil complaint against Volkswagen in January seeking injunctive relief and monetary penalties for VW’s actions.

The reconciliation happened rather quickly, with VW proposing to settle the case about three months after the suit was filed.  Apparently, VW was eager to move past the scandal and has admitted tried to cheat on the emissions tests.

The parties have already reached an agreement in principle.  As part of the settlement, VW has offered to repair 482,000 diesel vehicles with the defeat device software or buy back or cancel the leases on the vehicles.  The automaker will also set up environmental and consumer protection funds.

The court set a date of June 21st for VW and the DOJ to finalize the settlement agreement and recently confirmed the parties are on track to meet that deadline.

While this particular action may be resolved shortly VW is still fighting other battles, some pertaining to the scandal, others involving different issues.

For example, three VW dealers sued the automaker in a proposed class action saying the company intentionally defrauded dealers by installing the software.

VW is also facing an investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) for patent infringement.  The ITC voted to initiate the investigation at the request of hybrid vehicle technology company Paice.

The investigation centers on alleged infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,237,634, 7,104,347, and 8,214,097.  The three related patents are entitled “Hybrid vehicles” and cover hybrid electric vehicles utilizing an internal combustion engine with series parallel electric motors, regenerative braking, and control circuitry.

The accused products listed in the complaint are the VW Jetta Hybrid, the Audi Q5 Hybrid, the Audi A3 e-tron Hybrid, the Porsche S E-Hybrid, and the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid.

The Paice complaint requests a permanent limited exclusion order that would stop the allegedly infringing hybrid vehicles and components from entering the United States.

Sustainable Agriculture and the Rise of GMO Patents

May 24th, 2016 by Anna Lippert* No comments »

220px-Golden_Rice

At the Patents for Humanity Awards last year the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) gave awards to seven patents for innovations in different humanitarian fields including sanitation, energy, and medicine.

Among these seven, winning an award for its work in nutrition was U.S. Patent No. 7,838,749 for Golden Rice.  Invented by Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Peter Beyer at the University of Freiburg, the rice has a genetically engineered carotenoid pathway to biosynthesize beta-carotene, allowing for the rice to have a higher level of vitamin A than conventional farmed rice.

The purpose behind the development of Golden Rice is to provide the enhanced rice to developing countries with the goal of lowering the rate of vitamin A deficiencies and the deaths due to those deficiencies. The inventors teamed up with the seed manufacturing company Syngenta (pending an $43 billion offer for purchase by ChemChina) in order to provide the seeds free of cost to developing countries.

Golden Rice, however, has not been entirely accepted with open arms. Many people today disapprove of the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in agriculture for health reasons, and the increase of resistances to disease and pesticides etc. within the crops themselves, which then require more genetic engineering to fight off the higher resistances.

As we move further into the 21st century, biotechnology is becoming more advanced and innovations easier to achieve, raising the question about agricultural GMO patents.

On one hand, like Golden Rice, these inventions could potentially save thousands of lives. On the other hand, GMO’s are still new and scientists are not fully aware of any long term implications they may have.

As GMO patents become more abundant, the USPTO, other national intellectual property offices, and IP policymakers will face serious scientific and moral issues surrounding GMO work within agriculture and the policies connected to them creating the need for more collaboration between the scientific and legal communities.

*Anna Lippert is a 2015 graduate of Purdue University with a Bachelors of Science in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.  Ms. Lippert is a certified OSHA hazardous waste technician and currently a second year law student at Golden Gate University School of Law with a focus on agricultural and environmental toxicology patent law.