Archive for September, 2011

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

September 30th, 2011

 

Several green patent lawsuits have been filed in the last two weeks in the areas of biofuels, energy storage, smart grid, LEDs and environmental remediation.

 

Biofuels

Genifuel Corporation et al. v. Oyler

This is an inventorship dispute over numerous patent applications relating to production of fuel and fertilizers from algae, including two that have issued as U.S. Patents Nos. 7,905,930 and 7,977,076.

In the complaint (Genifuel-Complaint), filed September 15, 2011 in the District of Utah, the Salt Lake City biomass-to-fuels company Genifuel requests an order declaring the defendant is not an inventor of the disputed IP.

 

Energy Storage – Batteries and Fuel Cells

Lester Electrical Inc. v. Diversified Power Int’l

The complaint (LesterElectrical-Complaint) was filed September 26, 2011 in the District of Nebraska.

Lester Electrical, a Nebraska industrial battery charger company, accuses Diversified Power of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,114,833 (’833 Patent).  The ’833 Patent is entitled “Monitoring and controlling system for battery and battery charger” and is directed to battery charging and control technology for battery-operated vehicles.

 

Limnia, Inc. v. Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. et al.

By this complaint (Limnia-Complaint), filed September 13, 2011 in the Central District of California, San Francisco-based hydrogen fuel cell maker Limnia asserts four patents (and, oddly, one pending patent application) against Energy Conversion Devices (ECD), United Technologies and AeroVironment.

The patents are U.S. Patents Nos. 7,011,768, entitled “Methods for hydrogen storage using doped alanate compositions,” 7,169,489, entitled “Hydrogen storage, distribution, and recovery system,” 7,279,222, entitled “Solid state hydrogen storage systems,” and 7,399,325, entitled “Method and apparatus for a hydrogen fuel cassette distribution and recovery system.”

The accused products are ECD’s metal hydride storage containers and solid hydrogen storage canisters, United Technologies’ alanate hydrogen storage systems, metal hydride systems and polymer-dispersed metal hydride systems, and a host of AeroVironment’s energy systems, electric vehicle charging solutions, and passenger and fleet electric vehicle charging systems.

 

LEDs

Dow Corning Compound Semiconductor Solutions, LLC v. Cree, Inc.

In this declaratory judgment action (Dow-Cree_Complaint), filed September 27, 2011 in the Eastern District of Michigan, DCCSS requests judicial declarations of non-infringement and invalidity of three Cree patents relating to silicon carbide wafers used as precursors for semiconductors.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent No. 7,294,324, entitled “Low basal plane dislocation bulk grown SiC wafers,” U.S. Patent No. 7,314,520, entitled “Low 1c screw dislocation 3 inch silicon carbide wafer,” and U.S. Patent No. 7,314,521, entitled “Low micropipe 100 mm silicon carbide wafer.”  The patents are directed to silicon carbide wafers having certain diameters and dislocation densities and methods of making such wafers.

 

Smart Grid

 TransData, Inc. v. Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co.

This complaint (TransData-Oklahoma_Complaint), filed September 16, 2011 in the Western District of Oklahoma, is the latest in a flurry of lawsuits by Texas smart meter company TransData against a number of utilities in the southeastern United States.  Details on the other TransData suits can be found in a previous post.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patents Nos. 6,181,294 (’294 Patent), 6,462,713 (’713 Patent) and 6,903,699 (’699 Patent), which relate to antenna and wireless communication devices for use with electric meters. The ’294, ’713 and ’699 Patents are related patents which trace back to an original 1998 filing date.  They describe early solutions for wireless transmission of electrical consumption data.

 

Environmental Remediation

Atlantis Holding Company, LLC et al. v. Pine Environmental Services, Inc.

Atlantis, Summit Holding Company and Aquarius Holdings Company (d/b/a Proactive Environmental Products) sued environmental monitoring solutions provider Pine Environmental Services (PES) on September 28, 2011 in the District of Maryland (Atlantis-Complaint).

Proactive makes replaceable stainless steel motors for groundwater sampling equipment, and the plaintiffs accuse PES of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,584,785, entitled “Groundwater sampling device” (’785 Patent).  The ’785 Patent is directed to a replaceable internal electric motor for a groundwater sampling device, the motor including means to align it with an alignment pin of the groundwater sampling device.

The complaint also includes allegations of trademark infringement and counterfeiting based on U.S. trademark registrations for several marks, including PROACTIVE, PROACTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL PRODUCTS, MONSOON, TYPHOON and HURRICANE for motors and pumps.

 

Recycling & Waste Management

R360 Environmental Solutions, Inc. v. Scott Environmental Services, Inc.

From the Sow’s Ear to Silk Purse Department comes this suit involving U.S. Patent No. 8,007,581 (’851 Patent), entitled “Incorporation of drilling cuttings into stable load-bearing structures” and directed to processes for recycling drill cuttings from oil drilling equipment and converting them into high-load-bearing civil engineering structures such as vehicle roads and drilling pads.

By its complaint (R360-Complaint), filed September 16, 2011 in the Southern District of Texas, R360 requests a decaratory judgment of non-infringement and invalidity of the ’581 Patent.

MIT Battery Startup Likes Liquidity

September 27th, 2011

 

Liquid Metal Battery Corporation (LMBC) is a Boston-area startup pursuing an liquid metal battery technology.

According to this Greentech Media piece, Don Sadoway of MIT is the inventor of LMBC’s core technology.

Sadoway is a named co-inventor on two related patent applications, U.S. Application Publication Nos. 2011/0014503 (’503 Application) and 2011/0014505 (’505 Application) describing and claiming batteries having liquid metal electrodes.

The ’503 Application is entitled “Alkaline earth metal ion battery” and is directed to an alkaline earth metal ion energy storage cell (10) which contains three liquid constituents: two liquid electrodes and a liquid electrolyte.

More particularly, the cell (10) houses a molten metal body (14) that serves as a negative electrode, an electronically conductive liquid alloy body (16) that serves as a positive electrode, and an intervening ionically conductive electrolyte (20).

According to the ’503 Application, calcium or magnesium is used in the liquid electrodes (14, 16) because these elements generate relatively high voltage, are safe to handle and are relatively inexpensive.

An electronically conductive container (22) houses the liquid constituents, including an electronically conductive lid (26).  An insulating inner sheath (24) prevents shorting between the negative and positive electrode (14, 16), and an insulative seal (29) confines molten constituents and vapors to the container (22).

A portion of the lid (26) in contact with the negative electrode (14) acts as a negative current collector (27) such that electrons pass between the negative electrode (14) and an external source or sink by way of a negative terminal.

Similarly, a portion of the container (22) is in contact with the positive electrode (16) and functions as a positive current collector (23), through which electrons pass between the positive electrode (16) and the external source or sink by way of a positive terminal (30).

The ’505 Application, entitled “Liquid electrode battery,” is a continuation-in-part of the ’503 Application, which means it claims priority to the ’503 Application and has some common disclosure as well as some new material.

The ’505 Application adds certain improvements to the liquid metal battery, such as a circulation producer including thermal management devices to provide a heat transfer path so heat can be conducted away from the liquid constituents (14, 16, 20) of the battery.

According to the ’503 and ’505 Applications, the use of liquid electrodes provides the advantage of higher current density:

The use of electronically conductive liquids for electrodes 14 and 16 with a liquid electrolyte 20 facilitates facile oxidation and reduction of the active alkaline metal and its cation at the electrodes 14 and 16. The electronic conductivity of the liquid electrodes promotes high current density during operation of the cell 10 by enabling electron-transfer reactions to occur at sites over entire liquid electrode-electrolyte interfaces rather than being limited to triple-phase intersections. Furthermore, because reactions at both electrodes occur entirely in the liquid state, the reaction kinetics are not throttled by the nucleation of distinct product phases. Thus, the cell constituents are consistent with extremely high current densities…

Sadoway told GTM that the all-liquid configuration is self-assembling and should be scalable for large-scale electrical grid applications at relatively low cost.

Texas Two-Step: Gaston Kroub Reports on Two Cleantech Events in One Big Energy State

September 23rd, 2011

 

Cleanovation 2011

Building on the success of an energetic premier conference held last year in Austin, this year’s Cleanovation again promised an interesting dynamic, where Israeli Cleantech startups travel to Texas to pitch for investment from a community of experienced energy-sector investors. 

More structured, and less free-wheeling than last year’s event, this year’s offering spotlighted water technologies, a timely issue as Houston itself was encircled by wildfires while dealing with protracted near-drought conditions.  Israeli technology to deal with water scarcity issues has a well-earned reputation in the marketplace, and that expertise certainly seemed welcome by the Texas audience.

On the flip side, as the energy market matures in Israel, particularly as Israel looks to exploit its natural gas and oil resources, there is a lot for the country to learn from Texas energy expertise – across a variety of fronts, including legal, regulatory, and M&A. 

Showcasing a U.S.-based clean initiative was an excellent presentation by a Waste Management executive, discussing how that company continues to look for ways to generate renewable energy from its operations. 

On a Green IP note, it was also heartening to hear that attendees were considering and utilizing the green patent incentive programs exhaustively covered by this blog for their technology.  All in all, a stimulating event, and illustrative of the global Cleantech economy in action.

Rice Alliance for Technology Cleantech Event 2011

Held on Rice’s idyllic campus, this event featured a large contingent of Cleantech companies, presenting on their technology to an audience of venture capitalists, solo investors, and professional services folks. 

In an interesting twist on the typical conference format, the afternoon session saw company presentations of intermittent lengths, with some companies giving rapid-fire 90 second or less type elevator pitches, while others presented in 4-minute increments.  The back-and-forth between presentations of various lengths help hold audience interest, while allowing a large spectrum of companies to present. 

As a Cleantech-focused IP lawyer, it was heartening to see the scope of innovation being presented, and more importantly, that the stakeholders in fostering that innovation spanned academia, government, and the private sector.  While investment dollars may be under pressure, the opportunities for start-ups to at least get an audience for their innovations persist. 

In the current environment, a focus on building an actionable IP portfolio is critical, and companies in the Cleantech sector simply must consider taking advantage of the various incentive programs, previously chronicled in this blog, in order to effectively accumulate those IP assets with limited spend and business disruption.

Other interesting takeaways from this event include confirmation that the U.S. government continues to take a leading role in driving the direction of innovation in the cleantech space.  In the morning keynote, led by Dr. Eric Toone of Duke University and the ARPA-E initiative of the Dept. of Energy, it was apparent that companies hoping to secure government-investment would do well to align themselves with the focus areas that the Dept. of Energy has delineated. 

 An open question, not addressed during the interesting presentation that spotlighted some of the companies and technologies that have received ARPA-E investment, remains concerning the IP implications of these kinds of grants.  As winners and losers emerge from those subset of Cleantech companies that have taken government funds, the consequences of utilizing that investment source on future licensing and enforcement activities will be interesting to watch.

Finally, while the Rice Alliance does an admirable job of promoting technology start-ups across sectors as diverse as nano-technology and life sciences, it was interesting to hear that Cleantech companies, particularly those targeting the energy sector, have received the lion’s share of financial support.  While perhaps not surprising considering the locale, that factoid, delivered as it was with relish by the conference director, reinforces the tremendous challenge and opportunity in energy for both established and start-up companies. 

And there is no doubt that IP will play a major role in driving future solutions, particularly in light of the confluence of the declining domestic manufacturing capability, globalization, and the still-unresolved political and economic ramifications of the climate-change debate. 

Conferences like the Rice Alliance and Cleanovation underscore the centrality of those issues, while providing fertile ground for spotlighting potentially disruptive technologies that one day may move the needle in remaking our economy and lifestyles.

Gaston Kroub is a partner in the New York office of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP.  Gaston serves as the co-chair of the Greentech Committee of the NYSBA’s IP Section and has been accredited as a LEED Green Associate.  Gaston is a registered patent attorney whose practice focuses on intellectual property litigation and counseling.

Building Immunity: Are Green Skills Certifiers Untouchable After LEED Win?

September 20th, 2011

 

Last year several individuals, including a green building consultant, an architect, and an engineer, sued the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in federal court in New York, alleging that the organization made false or misleading statements in connection with its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system for green buildings.

Specifically, Henry Gifford and the other plaintiffs accused the USGBC of making false statements regarding the energy and money-saving aspects of LEED certification in a 2008 press release, which says the results of a 2008 study:

indicate that new buildings certified under the [USGBC's] LEED certification system are, on average, performing 25-30% better than non-LEED certified buildings in terms of energy use

The plaintiffs brought a federal false advertising claim under the Lanham Act and state claims under the New York Deceptive Trade Practices Act. 

Both the federal and state claims were based on the premise that the plaintiffs were harmed by the allegedly misleading statement because it diverted customers from the plaintiffs’ business to LEED-accredited professionals.

The court disagreed and last month dismissed the suit. 

In a 9-page Order (Gifford-USGBC_Order), Judge Leonard B. Sand held that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue the USGBC for the alleged false advertising because they could not demonstrate that their businesses were damaged by the statements at issue.

To show standing for a claim of false advertising under the Lanham Act in the Second Circuit (which includes New York federal courts), a plaintiff must (1) be a competitor of the defendant, or (2) show a reasonable interest to be protected against the alleged false advertising and that the interest is likely to be damaged by the alleged false advertising.

The court held that the plaintiffs are not competitors of the USGBC because plaintiffs provide advice on the design and construction of energy efficient buildings while the USGBC reviews and rates designs created by others.

As to the reasonable interest prong, the court held the plaintiffs had failed to establish a causal nexus between the USGBC’s alleged false statement and clients of the plaintiffs supposedly lost to LEED-accredited professionals:

With the exception of Gifford, each Plaintiff designs and consults on specific elements of individual buildings, including heating and cooling systems, moisture and mold remediation, and architectural design.  Plaintiffs do not allege that LEED certified buildings do not require such services or that those services must be provided by a LEED-accredited professional in order to attain certification.  Because there is no requirement that a builder hire LEED-accredited professionals at any level, let alone every level, to attain LEED certification, it is not plausible that each customer who opts for LEED certification is a customer lost to Plaintiffs.

While the plaintiffs here took on a certifiying organization directly, most greenwashing cases are brought against manufacturers and sellers of products for alleged false or misleading acts or statements made in connection with their own products.

This decision should keep it that way, at least for organizations that certify green skills and services, because it makes establishing the requisite standing to get into court very difficult for putative challengers.  

For green skills certifiers the universe of direct competitors is rather small, and non-competing plaintiffs are likely to have a hard time showing causal links between false or misleading statements and damage to their businesses.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

September 16th, 2011

Several new green patent complaints have been filed recently in the areas of biofuels, smart grid, LEDs, solar manufacturing materials, and waste water treatment.  Here’s a run down:

 

Biofuels

Butamax Advanced Biofuels v. Gevo

The complaint (Butamax-Gevo_DJComplaint) was filed August 9, 2011 in the District of Delaware.

Butamax, a joint venture between BP and DuPont, accuses Gevo of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,993,889, entitled “Fermentive production of four carbon alcohols,” and directed to methods for producing isobutanol by fermentive growth of a recombinant yeast microorganism.

This is the second patent infringement suit filed by Butamax against Gevo.  I covered the first complaint here.

 

Smart Grid

Nxegen v. Sensus USA

The complaint (Nxegen-Complaint) was filed July 29, 2011 in the District of Connecticut.

Nxegen asserts two related patents against Sensus, U.S. Patents Nos. 6,633,823 and 7,135,956, entitled “System and method for monitoring and controlling energy use” and directed to systems and methods for monitoring and controlling power use among a number of facilities to reduce a real-time aggregate power load across the facilities.

The accused products include the FlexNet Advanced Metering re Infrastructure (AMI) solution.

 

IP Co. (Intus IQ) v. Ingersoll-Rand et al.

The complaint (Intus-Ingersoll_Complaint) was filed August 25, 2011 in the Eastern District of Texas.

Intus asserts two related patents, U.S. Patents Nos. 6,044,062 and 6,249,516, entitled “Wireless network gateway and method for providing same,” and directed to certain wireless network systems having a server providing a gateway between two networks.

The other named defendants are Schlage Lock Company, Trane and Schneider Electric

Intus is a patent licensing company and appears to b e related to Sipco, which has been a patent enforcement spree, including suits against utilities, smart meter companies, and EV charging companies.

 

ICH Intellectual Capital Holdings v. Badger Meter et al.

The complaint, filed September 8, 2011 in the Eastern District of Texas, accuses a host of smart meter players of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,248,181, entitled “Automated meter reading system” and directed to an automated meter reading system adapted to facilitate readings by an operator walking or driving close to the system at a low power level and at a frequency in an unlicensed frequency band.

The other named defendants are Mueller Water Products, Transparent Technologies, Metron-Farnier, Tantalus, ESCO Technologies, Aclara Power-Line Systems, Landis+Gyr, Trilliant, Tropos, and the City of Winnsboro, Texas.

ICH appears to be a non-practicing patentee.

 

LEDs

SemiLEDS v. Cree

The complaint (SemiLEDS-Complaint) was filed August 15, 2011 in the District of Delaware.

SemiLEDS accuses Cree of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,615,789, entitled “Vertical light emitting diode device structure” and directed to a vertical light-emitting diode structure utilizing a spacer to separate the p-doped layer from the active layer and U.S. Patent No. 7,646,033, entitled “Systems and methods for producing white-light emitting diodes” and directed to a vertical light-emitting diode structure having a wafer level phosphor layer parallel to a gallium nitride layer.

In the increasingly common tit-for-tat LED patent litigation wars, SemiLEDS fights back here after being sued by Cree in April for alleged infringement of “flip-chip” mounted LEDs.

 

Waste Management / Water Filtration

Salsnes Filter v. M2 Renewables

The complaint (Salsnes-Complaint) was filed August 18, 2011 in the Central District of California.

Salsnes asserts U.S. Patent No. 6,942,786, entitled “Cleaning device for waste water” and directed to a waste water cleaning device having an endless filtering belt and a blowoff device to remove contamination from the belt.

The named defendants are M2 Renewables and Nepsus Environmental, and the accused devices are the M2 Microscreen and Nepsus CBUM Process at the Adelanto, California waste water treatment plant and the M2 Microscreen at the ProLogis-Fontana, California Kaiser Steel waste water treatment plant.

 

Solar

du Pont v. Heraeus

The complaint (DuPont-Heraeus_Complaint), filed September 2, 2011 in the District of Delaware, asserts U.S. Patent No. 7,767,254, entitled “Paste for solar cell electrode and solar cell” and directed to a method of making an electrode for a solar cell by applying a conductive paste comprising silver particles.

du Pont alleges that Heraeus’s manufacture and use of its H94XX and H92XX series of pastes infringes the ’254 Patent.

Green Patents for Sale: Evergreen’s String Ribbon PV Process

September 10th, 2011

 

Evergreen Solar (Evergreen), a Massachusetts silicon PV maker, recently announced that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and would try to sell its assets under the reorganization.

According to the Greentech Media report, those assets include “the String Ribbon technology that is at the core of Evergreen’s existence.”  Without String Ribbon, Michael Kanellos wrote, “Evergreen’s assets are more generic,” and if the technology can be sold off, “there won’t be a lot left to reorganize.”

So what is String Ribbon, and what are the technology assets that are up for sale?

According to Cleantech PatentEdge™, Evergreen is the assignee of 59 patents and published patent applications in the U.S. and abroad.

The String Ribbon technology is covered, at least in part, by a family of at least three patents – U.S. Patents Nos. 6,814,802, 7,022,180 and 7,507,291, each entitled “Method and apparatus for growing multiple crystalline ribbons from a single crucible” (collectively “Ribbon Patents”).

The basic ribbon technology, before the invention of the Ribbon Patents, is shown in FIG. 1A.  It involved continuous growth of a single ribbon of silicon sheet material (17) drawn through a single crucible (11). 

Inside the crucible (11) is a melt (12) of silicon and a pair of strings (15) extending through the crucible (11). 

The cooler liquid silicon crystallizes at the top of the meniscus (19), and the strings (15) become incorporated in and define the edge boundaries (18a, 18b) of the crystalline ribbon (17).

According to the Background section of the Ribbon Patents, the continuous growth of silicon ribbon obviates the need for slicing of bulk produced silicon to form wafers.

Instead of just one ribbon at a time, the invention of the Ribbon Patents enables continuous and concurrent growth of multiple semiconductor ribbons from a single crucible.

Figure 2A, for example, shows a continuous two-ribbon dual growth system (20) including a crucible (21) having a melt (22) of silicon and two pairs of strings (25a, 25b) extending through the crucible. 

Each of the pairs of string (25a, 25b) has a fixed distance between the strings.  Two crystalline ribbons (27a, 27b) of silicon are drawn from the melt (22) as the cooler liquid silicon crystallizes at the tops of the menisci (29a, 29b). 

The pairs of strings (25a, 25b) pass through holes in the bottom of the crucible and become incorporated in and define the edge boundaries of the crystalline ribbons (27a, 27b).

Additional embodiments, as shown in FIGS. 3A and 3B, include meniscus shapers (3a, 3b) placed around the two pairs of strings (35a, 35b) to partition the melt (32) to form subregions (3c, 3d) from which two ribbons (37a, 37b) grow.

The Ribbon Patents also teach a nine-ribbon growth system, shown in FIG. 6, which includes nine pairs of strings, nine meniscus shapers (6a-6i), and an afterheater (64).

According to the Ribbon Patents, the disclosed methods and apparatus allow for a substantially better rate of production and efficiency and reduce capital, material, and labor costs. 

But the Greentech Media piece points out that adopting the ribbon technology requires some changes to standard manufacturing processes, and the wafers and cells produced by the ribbon process are sized differently than those made by conventional manufacturing methods.

It will be interesting to see how much green will be offered for these green patents.

ChicoBag Responds to Plastic Bag Makers in Reverse Greenwash Suit

September 6th, 2011

 

A previous post discussed a recently-filed lawsuit in which plastic bag manufacturers Hilex Poly Company, Superbag, and API Enterprises took issue with certain statements made by ChicoBag, the popular reusable bag maker.

The accusations could be called reverse greenwashing, as they involve allegedly false or misleading statements not about environmental benefits, but about the negative environmental impact of plastic products.

ChicoBag recently responded, at least in the court of public opinion. 

In a press release entitled “Bag Wars:  Plastic Bag Giants Sue Reusable Bag Entrepreneur for Loss of Sales (Environmental Community Outraged),” ChicoBag addresses the plastic bag makers’ accusations head on and suggests the suit should be viewed as part of the plastics industry’s strategy of silencing the competition.

The crux of the plastic bag makers’ complaint (Hilex_Complaint) is that ChicoBag has made a number of false or deceptive claims about the consumption, recycling, and negative environmental impact of plastic bags and has falsely indicated that the claims are substantiated.

However, according to the press release, the statements at issue were made by third party sources such as the Environmental Protection Agency, National Geographic, and the Los Angeles Times, and simply repeated by ChicoBag, with attribution, on its web site.

Moreover, Andy Keller, the inventor of ChicoBag and the company’s president, told me that the plastic bag makers’ complaint actually altered the wording of some of the statements.

In particular, while some of the statements actually relate to the environmental impact of plastic products generally, the plastic bag makers inserted the word “bags” into the statements with the result that the complaint falsely presents them as claims about plastic bags.

The press release also notes that litigation is a favored tactic by plastic bag manufacturers and their coalitions and associations such as the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, which has filed suits against the communities of Marin County, Palo Alto, Manhattan Beach, and Los Angeles County.

According to Keller, “Plastic bag manufacturers and their ‘non-profit’ associations, along with their trade association, the American Chemistry Council, have spent millions of dollars trying to persuade voters and elected officials to vote against single-use bag legislation.”

With respect to the current lawsuit, Keller doesn’t think it is really about the facts.  Instead, he said, “I believe it is simply a way for the industry to squash the competition and scare all of us into silence.”

TransData Doubles Smart Meter Suits as Patent Enforcement Heads East

September 1st, 2011

 

In a previous post, I wrote about Texas smart meter company TransData‘s patent infringement suit against CoServ, a Texas utility.

TransData recently extended its patent enforcement activity from Texas in an easterly direction through the southeastern United States, filing complaints against utilities in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.

The targets are the Alabama Power Company (TransData-AlabamaPower_Complaint), the Georgia Power Company (TransData-GeorgiaPower_Complaint), and the Mississippi Power Company (TransData-MissPower_Complaint).

Each complaint asserts U.S. Patents Nos. 6,181,294 (’294 Patent), 6,462,713 (’713 Patent) and 6,903,699 (’699 Patent), which relate to antenna and wireless communication devices for use with electric meters.

The ’294, ’713 and ’699 Patents are related patents which trace back to an original 1998 filing date.  They describe early solutions for wireless transmission of electrical consumption data. 

In particular, the patents are directed to electric meters (100) and an antenna (170, 270) for use with the electric meters.  The antenna includes antenna elements (172, 174, 272, 274) located within a dielectric housing (120, 220) and a balance circuit (176, 276).

The balance circuit (176, 276) mechanically supports the antenna elements (172, 174, 272, 274) so the antenna elements can cooperate and act as a dipole. 

According to the patents’ specification:

The present invention . . . introduces the broad concept of outfitting an electric meter with an internal, wireless communications antenna, allowing the electric meter circuitry within the meter to communicate via a data network wirelessly couplable thereto.

According to the complaints, the devices that infringe or may infringe the asserted patents are Sensus iCon electric meters, Elster Alpha A3 and REX electric meters, and meters with SmartSynch wireless modules.

With these three new complaints, there are now at least six pending TransData infringement suits involving the same patents.  In addition to the CoServ case, the new complaints list two other cases in the Eastern District of Texas against CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric and Tri-County Electric Cooperative.