Archive for October, 2008

Philips Asserts “Liquid Hues” and “Luminaire” LED Patents Against Lighting Science

October 29th, 2008

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Dutch Electronics giant Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV (Philips) opened a new front against Lighting Science Group Corp. (LSG), accusing the Dallas-based lighting products maker of infringing two patents covering LED technology. 

Philips’ bare bones complaint (philips_complaint.pdf), filed last month in federal district court in Massachusetts, asserts U.S. Patent Nos. 6,967,448 (’448 patent) and 6,250,774 (’774 patent) and names no specific LSG products.

The ’448 patent, entitled “Method and apparatus for controlling illumination,” relates to LED lighting systems that can generate variable color radiation without the use of color filters.  The patented technology is designed for underwater lighting such as in pools or spas.

According to the ’448 patent, liquids significantly absorb and scatter certain colors such that the colors look different under water than they do when projected in air.  The patent discloses a method for generating ”liquid hues” that adjust for this effect so that the appearance of LED colors in water approximates similar colors in air.

The system of the ’448 patent uses a controller that adjusts the individual intensity of each differently colored LED to control the overall radiation output of the lighting system.

One interesting point about the ’448 patent is that it is part of an extremely long chain of continuation and continuation-in-part parent applications, dating back to 1997 (the ’448 patent issued in 2005).  I counted about 18 parent applications listed on the face of the ’448 patent.  This lengthy history should provide LSG’s lawyers with plenty of ammunition for the company’s defense.

The ’774 patent is entitled ”Luminaire” and is directed to an LED package for street lighting that uses the generated light more efficiently.  According to the patent, a major disadvantage of some existing luminaires is that the light doesn’t concentrate well into a beam and therefore a substantial percentage of the light projects outside the area or object to be illuminated.

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The patented technology solves this problem and reduces energy use by focusing the individual beams of multiple LED lighting units such that each narrow beam only hits a portion of the area or object.  The claimed luminaire (1) (shown above) has a housing (10), a light emission window (11) and a set of lighting units (20), each having at least one LED chip (30) and an optical system (40), with the lighting units illuminating respective portions of an object.

Philips and LSG are engaged in other LED technology battles:  Philips filed another patent infringement suit against LSG in Massachusetts in February involving five other LED patents, and in March LSG accused Philips of misappropriating proprietary technology in a case pending in state court in California.  It looks like tensions may be brewing between these two for a while.

Vattenfall Builds Pioneering Clean Coal Plant

October 27th, 2008

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Matter Network recently reported that the first coal-fired power plant constructed to incorporate carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology went online last month in Germany.  Vattenfall, a Swedish power company, built the plant and will operate it as a pilot.

The system captures carbon dioxide from the plant’s flue gas, compresses it into a liquid and stores it underground.  According to Vattenfall’s web site, most of the carbon dioxide will dissolve in reservoir water and slowly mineralize (see the project description here).

Vattenfall owns over 50 international patents and published applications directed to power generation technology.  Much of the older technology relates to nuclear power, including cooling systems for nuclear power plants.

The company’s recent patents cover removal and separation of chemicals from water or flue gas, including WO 2004/112943 (Boron separation and recovery), WO 2004/026486 (Assembly for operating hydrocyclones, in particular for flue-gas desulphurisation plants), WO 2003/074430 (Nitrate removal), WO 2002/040406 (Process and apparatus for removal and destruction of dissolved nitrate), and WO 2001/027593 (A method and device for measuring, by photo-spectrometry, the concentration of harmful gases in the fumes through a heat-producing plant).

While the Vattenfall plant and CCS process produces almost zero carbon emissions, the Matter story points out that compressing and transporting carbon dioxide requires a lot of energy. 

CCS may be an important transition technology, particularly in countries that get most of their power from coal plants, but processes that chemically transform carbon into innocuous materials are probably better long-term solutions than systems that require compression and transport of CO2.

More Green Patents Gratis from Bosch, DuPont and Xerox

October 24th, 2008

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When the Eco-Patent Commons launched, I wrote a post about this initiative to share environmentally-friendly patented technology.  The Commons is administered by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a Geneva-based organization that promotes sustainability in business.

The Commons started out with 31 patents, most of which were donated by IBM.  The WBCSD hosts a web site with a searchable database of the patents, which are available for anyone to exploit.  The goal is to allow easy access to environmentally-friendly innovation so it gets into the hands of those best positioned to implement it.

The Commons recently welcomed three new members.  Last month the Bosch Group (Bosch), which develops, among other things, automotive and industrial technology, joined the Commons, along with Xerox and chemical giant DuPont.  The three companies agreed to share 50 patents.

Bosch donated 24 German patents that relate to automotive technology, including filter devices and methods for reducing emissions, energy efficiency and fuel-saving technology, and a fuel tank that allows a vehicle to use multiple fuels.

The Xerox contribution includes 22 U.S., European, German and Japanese patents that relate to removal of environmental contaminants from water and soil. 

Some of the donated U.S. patents include U.S. Patent Nos. 5,441,365 (Apparatus and process for treating contaminated soil gases and liquids), 5,197,541 (Apparatus for two phase vacuum extraction of soil contaminants), 5,358,357 (Process and apparatus for high vacuum groundwater extraction) and 5,979,554 (Vacuum application method and apparatus for removing liquid contaminants from groundwater).

DuPont donated four U.S. Patents relating to various chemical processes including a method of breaking down plastics (U.S. Patent No. 7,053,130, entitled “Method to accelerate biodegradation of aliphatic-aromatic co-polyesters by enzymatic treatment”) and a method of detecting contaminants via a biological test system that gauges environmental stress levels (U.S. Patent No. 5,683,868, entitled “Highly sensitive method for detecting environmental insults”).

It will be interesting to see which, if any, patents prove valuable and which donated technologies will be useful to whom.   There has been at least one suggestion to expand the scope of the Commons to include enabling disclosures.  We’ll be keeping tabs on the Commons and hoping for some success stories.

Solazyme to Market Algal Oil for Jet Fuel

October 20th, 2008

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Solazyme is a South San Francisco biotech company that makes oil from algae.  While most algal oil makers harness the ability of algae to use energy from sunlight, Solazyme uses algae that grow in the dark and feed on sugar.

The company has identified natural strains of algae that thrive in the dark and is developing its own strains through genetic engineering.

Currently the company is operating in the cosmetics market where its oil will be used in anti-wrinkle products.

Solazyme recently announced that it will enter the jet fuel market (see the greentechmedia article here).  Its oil has been tested for viability as jet fuel by an independent lab, the Southwest Research Institute (SRI).

SRI tested many elements of Solazyme’s algal oil, including density, thickness and freezing point, and determined that the oil meets the ASTM D1655 standard for aviation turbine fuel.

Solazyme owns one issued patent and eleven published patent applications relating to genetic engineering methods, gene sequences and protein sequences that cause microbes to perform various biochemical functions.

Those functions include generating hydrogen (U.S. Patent No. 7,135,290) and boosting photosynthetic energy production by increasing a microorganism’s ability to harvest photons of light (U.S. Patent Application Pub No. 2008/124756).

Biofuel for air travel has the potential to be a huge market, and commercial airlines are looking to algae and other renewables to reduce their reliance on traditional jet fuel.

Agri-Process Innovations Wins Home Court Advantage in Biodiesel Processor Suit

October 16th, 2008

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I’ve written in this space before about the lawsuits between California biofuel processor designer Greenline Industries (Greenline) and Agri-Process Innovations (API), an Arkansas engineering firm, involving processor design copyrights and allegations of breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets and false advertising.

The technology relates to processors that convert feedstocks such as seed oils and animal fats into biodiesel fuels.

Greenline’s proprietary technology provides waterless systems to clean the fuel, allowing producers to avoid the time and money associated with introducing water into the process and later separating it out. 

Greenline also enjoys an exclusive worldwide license to continuous flow technology, which greatly increases its processors’ production capacity. 

A recent post discussed the companies’ tussle over venue, with Greenline trying to move a suit API initially filed in Arkansas to federal court in California and API fighting to transfer Greenline’s subsequent northern California case to Arkansas. 

In July the federal court in Oakland, California, where Greenline had filed suit, decided to defer to the Arkansas court to decide where the cases should go forward.

In an order signed last month (greenline_arkansas_order.pdf), Judge Brian S. Miller of the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock ruled that Arkansas is the proper venue for the case. 

In the event that two lawsuits involving the same parties and same issues are filed in different jurisdictions, federal courts apply a first-to-file rule, subject to certain limited exceptions, to determine where the suit will proceed. 

Judge Miller held that none of the exceptions, which include inequitable conduct, bad faith, anticipatory suit and forum shopping, applied in this case, and so the case will proceed in API’s home state of Arkansas because API beat its opponent to the punch, filing suit there before Greenline sued in California.

There is a third lawsuit pending between Greenline and API in federal court in Los Angeles, which also may be transferred to Arkansas.  API has moved to dismiss that case, and in the alternative, to transfer the case to Arkansas to be tried together with the other suits (api_motion_transfer.pdf).

Green Patent Blog Goes Carbon Neutral

October 14th, 2008

In a previous post I wrote about CO2 Stats, a company that provides a carbon offset program for web sites.  The program calculates the carbon emissions of its subscribers’ sites and purchases renewable energy certificates to offset the emissions.

Enernetics, Inc., which owns CO2 Stats, filed a trademark application (485_app.pdf) in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) last month for the word mark GREEN CERTIFIED SITE. 

U.S. Application Serial No. 77568485 (’485 application) lists the goods/services as “[c]omputer certificates for verifying environmental services for Internet services and Internet devices, namely websites, email servers, e-commerce, multi-media, routers, and PCs.”

It seems likely that the PTO will at least initially reject CO2 Stats’ application as merely descriptive of the services provided, and the company will have to fight to get a registration.  This is because one can’t get a federal registration for a trademark if the mark merely describes the goods or services provided.

I subscribed to CO2 Stats and I’ve inserted the required piece of HTML code (although it seems I can only do so in a post so the above logo will not consistently appear on my web site).

Clicking on the Green Certified Site logo above verifies the offsets and provides an interesting window into the energy used and carbon emitted by the blog. 

For instance, the carbon footprint of you guys, my readers, this month is 0.0038 kg of CO2; the total server footprint is 0.0041 kg CO2.  There is also a cool pie chart showing the breakdown of the fuels powering this web site.

Thanks to CO2 Stats, Green Patent Blog will no longer contribute to global warming.

Managing Intellectual Property Magazine Launches Green IP Award

October 11th, 2008

Managing Intellectual Property Magazine (Managing IP) is launching the Green IP Award “[t]o recognize important inventions in the field of clean technology” and acknowledge “the key role played by patents in innovation.” 

Any published patent application or issued patent that relates to combating climate change can be submitted for consideration.  The patent applications must be published by December 31, 2008 to be considered. 

The award will be presented to the inventor and patent attorney responsible for the winning submission, and the winning technology will be profiled in the magazine. 

I will have the honor and privilege of serving on a panel of judges that has been selected by the editor of Managing IP to determine the winner.

The closing date for submissions is January 31, 2009.  The link for more information on the contest is here

The launch follows an excellent article Managing IP did on the role of intellectual property in the current clean tech boom.  The comprehensive and thoughtful piece by James Nurton was the cover story of the magazine’s September issue.

San Francisco Homes to be Certified by GreenPoints Rating System

October 9th, 2008

 

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Build It Green, a Berkeley, California non-profit organization, will provide green building certification for new San Francisco residences.  San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently approved a green building ordinance that requires new small residential buildings (those having four dwellings or fewer) to achieve certain ratings from Build It Green’s GreenPoints rating system.

Starting next year, the homes must achive 25 GreenPoints.  In 2010 and 2011, the residences must demonstrate a minimum of 50 GreenPoints, and that number rises to 75 in 2012. 

Under the San Francisco ordinance, commercial buildings and larger residential buildings can either get certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program or achieve GreenPoints ratings.

The GreenPoints rating system appears to be a lesser known, California equivalent of the LEED certfication.  Like its more famous cousin, the GreenPoints rating takes into account energy efficiency, resource conservation, indoor air quality and water conservation.

Build It Green has a dozen trademark, service mark and certification mark applications for various aspects of its green building ratings and services, including U.S. Application Serial No. 77/359,607 (77359607app.pdf) for the GreenPoint Rated logo (shown above).

But Build It Green has had some difficulty in registering its eco-marks.  Not surprisingly, the marks BUILD IT GREEN (for dissemination of educational materials and programs in the field of green building) and CERTIFIED GREEN BUILDING PROFESSIONAL (for certification of professionals in the field of green building) were initially refused by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) as “merely descriptive” of the services provided.

This is because one can’t get a federal registration for a trademark if it merely describes or is a generic term for the goods or services provided.  The rationale is that registering such terms would restrict the ability of competitors to provide those goods or services.  (see previous posts about my descriptiveness battle here, here, here and here)

However, the word mark GREENPOINT RATED is moving towards registration.  Build It Green successfully overcame a rejection in which the PTO stated that there may be a likelihood of confusion between its mark and GREENPOINT LANDING.

In its response, Build It Green pointed out the differences in the terms of the marks and argued that the latter mark refers only to the Brooklyn neighborhood where the applicant’s property transaction occurred.  The PTO was persuaded, and the GREENPOINT RATED mark has moved out of substantive examination.

Sony Takes a License for Camera-Mounted LED Technology

October 4th, 2008

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A recent post reported on an infringement suit between Litepanels, LLC (Litepanels) and Sony Corp. (Sony) involving two Litepanels patents that cover camera-mounted LED lighting systems for use in film and video production. 

Litepanels sued Sony in July, alleging that the Sony HVL-LBP Camera-Mounted Video Light (above) infringes U.S. Patent Nos. 6,948,823 and 7,163,302.

Sony and Litepanels have reached a settlement, and Judge T. John Ward of the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall signed a dismissal order last month (litepanelsorder.pdf). 

As usual, the terms of the settlement agreement are confidential.  Litepanels’ consent motion to dismiss (litepanelsconsentmotion.pdf) says that the parties ”have resolved their disputes on confidential terms involving a license and settlement agreement.” 

This is the second time this year that Sony quickly decided to take a license from an LED patent holder.  In May Sony agreed to license two patents owned by LED innovator and Columbia Professor Emeritus Gertrude Neumark Rothschild.  I wonder if the quick settlements will brand Sony as an easy target for LED patent owners.

Fuel Cells and Wind Power Lead European Patent Filings

October 2nd, 2008

I saw this interesting post on Green Light about a presentation at the recent Copenmind conference by two European Patent Office (EPO) patent examiners about clean tech patent filings in the EPO. 

The examiners noted that the two hottest areas for clean energy patent filing in Europe are fuel cells and wind power.  According to the presentation, about half of clean tech patent filings from 1998 to 2007 relate to fuel cell technology, with wind being the fast growing category, increasing by over 30% each year.

This is consistent with U.S. clean tech patents granted, as reported in the second quarter 2008 installment of the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index (see my previous post here). 

The bulk of the European wind technology innovation is coming out of Germany, which accounts for 39% of the EPO wind applications. 

The U.S. is second with 16% of the wind patent filings, and there’s plenty of room for wind technology companies to grow in the U.S. - according to the Green Light post, the U.S. gets only 1% of its power from wind.