Green Patent Blog is on a brief sabbatical.
A few years ago, during the height of the green patent fast track craze, I wrote a post on clean tech companies generating PR about their patent applications being accepted into an accelerated examination program or being granted by such a program.
Though the excitement has died down and the USPTO green tech fast track was closed last year, green patent PR remains alive and well.
In the past few weeks Biofuels Digest picked up two such stories. The first was about a Notice of Allowance received by a Canadian company called CO2 Solutions for a patent application entitled “Methods and formulations using carbonic anhydrase and reaction compound combinations.”
The second piece reported the issuance of U.S. Patent No. 8,420,782, entitled “Molecular DNA-binding domains and methods of use” and related to gene editing based on the use of TAL effectors. The patentee is Illinois-based Two Blades Foundation.
The patent PR in the clean tech industry sparked my interest in the broader phenomenon of PR materials concerning patent matters. I was curious to find out to what extent this was occurring in other industries, and exactly what types of subject matter are involved when patentees generate media content about their patents.
So a few months ago, I started researching the subject matter technology firms are communicating when they generate PR content concerning patents (see the Abstract here). I compiled and analyzed a random set of 414 patent-focused press releases generated by patentees, or their licensees, from 2008 to March 2013 and catalogued the subject matter contained therein.
The data set enabled me to create a taxonomy of patent-focused PR content. As it turns out, the subject matter of patent PR can be broken down into the following top-level categories: (1) prosecution; (2) litigation; (3) transactional matters; (4) post-grant procedures; (5) patent-related honors/accolades; (6) patented or patent pending products; and (7) ANDA patent challenges.
Most of the top-level categories can be further divided into second-level subject matter categories. In the patent prosecution category, for example, the study calculates the proportion of press releases involving (a) patents granted; (b) Notices of Allowance issued; (c); applications filed; (d) applications pending; and (e) responses to office actions filed.
So the CO2 Solutions story would be categorized as Prosecution; Notice of Allowance issued. The Two Blades Foundation article would be Prosecution; Patent granted.
Within the patent litigation category I found that the largest proportion of press releases relates to settlement of litigation, perhaps reflecting the reality that most patent cases settle but also suggesting that firms may believe it more beneficial to report early resolution of patent litigation than enforcement activity or court victories.
As to industry statistics, my preliminary results indicate that pharmaceutical firms generate the largest proportion of press releases, a finding consistent with the importance of patents to the pharmaceutical industry. The clean tech industry is in fifth place with 9.2% of press releases in the data set.
I’m hoping that the data I present in this study will help to elucidate which patent-related events technology firms believe are important to highlight and provide a foundation for subsequent inquiries into how patent PR may affect public opinion of patents and patentees.
BioGasol is a Danish company that has developed a biomass pre-treatment system comfortably situated upstream in cellulosic biofuels production. The system, called Carbofrac, provides more efficient and lower cost biochemical conversion of lignocellulosic feedstocks such as wood and agricultural waste.
The company owns at least nine U.S. patents and published applications, including U.S. Application Publication No. 2012/0100045 (‘045 Application), which covers the pre-treatment system.
The ‘045 Application is entitled “Apparatus for rapid mixing of media and method” and directed to an apparatus (100) for processing at least two media. The apparatus (100) has a reaction chamber (102), a casing (108), at least two inlets for a materials to be processed and another medium, a rotating means (111), a series of rotating elements (110), and a lid (104).
The reaction chamber casing (108) has a conical shape to facility flow of the materials toward the lid (104), and the inlet is adapted so the material to be processed moves in a direction parallel to the radius of the rotating means (111).
The second figure shows the reaction chamber (102) in more detail. Rotating elements (205, 206) generate a vortex inducing mixture and transport of the feedstock material, thereby optimizing release of a medium such as steam or a chemical reagent and providing for a rapid interaction between the medium and the feedstock:
The rotating discs are designed in order to provide comminution, dispersion and fluffing of the pulp introduced and exposure of said material to a medium, i. e. gas or liquid, to produce a rapid interaction. The rotating discs are designed in order to optimize the medium release at the instant of comminution, dispersion and fluffing.
According to the ‘045 Application, the “comminution and the dispersion effect” of the rotating elements cause “an instantaneous inclusion of the injected medium in the pulp” which, in turn, leads to reduced reaction time:
This allows localized and immediate contact between the freshly dispersed and comminuted pulp and the chemical reagent causing a fast and efficient reaction between the two. Reaction time is therefore reduced since the chemical reagent is put in intimate contact with the pulp minimizing the diffusion time through the pulp.
A previous post discussed advanced battery maker Electrovaya’s lithium ion polymer technology, which the company says provides faster, more efficient transport of lithium, and therefore greater energy density.
Several years ago, Electrovaya partnered with Tata Motors to work on batteries for electric vehicles in Norway. Tata, in turn, had invested in a Norwegian lithim ion battery company called Miljøbil Grenland (MG). In 2012 Electrovaya acquired MG.
In an example of green IP supporting further innovation, Electrovaya recently announced its new generation lithium ion battery technology, which it calls SuperPolymer 20.0. According to its press release, the MG IP was key to the development of the new battery tech:
The module-level and system-level improvements are a result of intensive development at Electrovaya as well as the addition of intellectual property acquired from Tata Motors through the August 2012 acquisition of Miljobil.
MG is listed as the applicant on at least one international patent application, PCT/IB2011/054738, entitled “Method for manufacturing of slurry for production of battery film” (‘738 Application).
The ‘738 Application is directed to methods for manufacturing a slurry for coating cathode and anode materials in batteries. More particularly, the invention offers an alternative to the use of solvents for coating the electrode foils.
Some of the solvents used to coat battery electrodes are toxic, flammable, or damaging to the chemical structure of the finished battery. Thus, it is important to fully remove the solvent from the battery film during production, but removing the last remnants of the solvent down to ppm level is difficult and energy intensive.
The ‘738 Application describes and claims a 7-step method including mixing active materials with a binder into a binder solution, adding an organic carbonate to the binder solution to form a slurry, coating an electrode material with the slurry, evaporating the coating by drying the carbonate, and surface treatment (rolling, baking and finishing) of the electrode material.
According to the ‘738 Application, use of the slurry instead of a solvent to coat the electrode is a better solution because the liquid slurry becomes a component of the battery electrode so it does not need to be completely removed:
By using a liquid which is entered as a component in the finished battery it is not necessary that the liquid is removed completely. This component will still be added at a later stage in the process. According to the execution of the available invention, a method for manufacturing of the slurry for coating of battery electrodes is provided, where the slurry, meaning active components and a binder will be diluted with a diluting agent, where the diluting agent is a component of the electrolyte which shall be used in the same lithium battery.
LED lighting remains the hottest area of green patent litigation, with several complaints filed in the last several weeks. Green patent complaints were recently filed in the areas of advanced batteries and solar powered lighting as well.
Celgard, LLC v. SK Innovation Co., Ltd.
Celgard is a North Carolina company that manufactures specialty membranes and separators for lithium ion batteries. On April 26, 2013, Celgard filed a patent infringement complaint against SK Innovation (SK) in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The complaint alleges that SK is directly infringing and inducing infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,432,586 (’586 Patent) by selling lithium ion battery separators to its customers knowing that the separators will be incorporated into finished lithium ion batteries.
The ’586 Patent is entitled “Separator for a high energy rechargeable lithium battery” and directed to a separator including a ceramic composite layer and a polyolefinic microporous layer. The ceramic layer has a matrix material and is adapted to block dendrite growth and prevent electronic shorting.
Solar Powered Lighting
Richmond v. Lumisol Electrical Ltd. et al.
On March 27, 2013, Simon Nicholas Richmond filed suit against a number of defendants including Lumisol Electrical, Ningbo Hangshun Electrical, and Costco for alleged infringement of three U.S. patents relating to a solar power lighting assembly and one patent relating to a wind indicator illuminated by solar power.
The asserted lighting assembly patents are part of the same family and include U.S. Patent Nos. 7,196,477, 7,429,827 and 8,362,700, each entitled “Solar powered light assembly to produce light of varying colors.” The fourth patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,089,370, entitled “Illuminated wind indicator.”
The accused products include the Color-Changing Sun and Moon Solar Stake Path Light sold under the brand name Celestial Series Sun and Moon Light.
Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Cree, Inc.
Florida LED lighting company Lighting Science Group (LSG) recently sued North Carolina-based Cree for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,201,968, entitled “Low profile light” (‘968 Patent).
Filed April 10, 2013 in federal court in Orlando, the LSG complaint alleges that Cree infringes at least claims 1-6, 9, 14, 17-20 and 22 of the ‘968 Patent by its manufacture and sale of the T67 LED Downlight product.
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.
Nicholas Holiday, Inc. v. 1 Energy Solutions, Inc.
On April 1, 2013, Nicholas Holiday brought a declaratory judgment action against 1 Energy Solutions (1 Energy) in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.
The patent at issue is 1 Energy’s U.S. Patent No. 7,045,965 (‘965 Patent), granted in 2006, and issued as a reissue patent on January 1, 2013. The ‘965 Patent is entitled “LED light module and series connected light modules” and relates to a more reliable light module having LEDs connected in parallel for use in light strings such as Christmas lights.
According to the complaint, Nicolas Holiday has intervening rights because it began making and selling various light string sets in 2008, including the Energy Smart LED C-5 and the Energy Smart 50 LED Colorite Miniature Lights light string products.
Nicholas Holiday is requesting a declaratory judgment that the reissue patent is invalid, its products do not infringe the reissue patent, and that it may continue to make, use and sell its LED light string products.
Relume Corporation Trust v. Swarco America, Inc. et al.
Relume filed a patent infringement complaint against Swarco and Philips Lumileds on March 27, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. The complaint asserts RE 42,161, entitled “Power supply for light emitting diode array” (’161 Reissue), which is a reissue of U.S. Patent No. 5,661,645.
The ’161 Reissue is directed to a power supply apparatus and system for providing power to LEDs, particularly LED array traffic signals. The accused products are are Swarco’s FUTURLED ITE traffic signal modules.
Trustees of Boston University v. Amazon.com.
The ’738 Patent is entitled “Highly insulated monocrystalline gallium nitride thin films” and directed to gallium nitride semiconductor devices and methods of preparing highly insulating GaN single crystal films in a molecular beam epitaxial growth chamber.
BU allegs that certain Kindle Paperwhite and Fire devices contain infringing LEDs.
Jam Strait, Inc. v. Osram Sylvania, Inc.
A Mississippi company called Jam Strait recently sued Osram Sylvania in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana for alleged infringement of a patent relating to LEDs used in motor vehicles.
The ‘625 Patent is entitled “LED light module for vehicles” and directed to an LED lamp module for use in vehicle tail lights. According to the ‘625 Patent, the module has integrated dual element control circuitry, voltage and current control circuitry, brightness enhancement circuitry, and LED circuitry built in to produce a bright, reliable, long life, energy efficient LED lamp that fits all vehicles.
One of the major trends in wind power is ever larger turbines for offshore use. This raises many technical challenges, including how to transport and install such large components at offshore sites.
A2SEA is a Danish company that has expertise in precisely these challenges and has developed technology for it. The company’s Sea Installer is a wind turbine installation vessel designed to operate in deep offshore waters.
The ‘337 Patent is entitled “Vessel with vertically elevational support legs” and directed to a ship (1) which has a hull (2), a deck (3), and two auxiliary cranes (10) positioned on the deck. A console (5) is mounted on either side of the hull (2), and support legs (9) are disposed in the console (5).
There are two support legs (9) at either end of the console (5), and they are connected to a winch wire (8), which provides for the right pressure on the support legs (9) via a hydraulic system. A large crane (11) having a loading capacity of about 450 tons is positioned on either side of the hull (2).
During mounting of a wind turbine, the support legs (9) exert the proper pressure to lift the ship (1) and the winch is locked to maintain the stability of the elevated ship:
During the mounting of a windmill the ship will thus on all four legs exert a pressure of 300 tons, which will lift up the ship, whereafter the winch is locked such that a possible wave will not give rise to instability.
The ‘920 Application is entitled “Lifting device for a wind turbine generator” and directed to a lifting device comprising a yoke (5) connecting the hook of a crane (11) with a collar (17) on the tower (8) of a wind turbine (9). The yoke (5) surrounds the nacelle (113) of the turbine (9) and is designed to lift and move a complete wind turbine.
According to the ‘920 Application, the yoke (5) provides a stable lift because it is attached at a particular point of the wind turbine (9) that represents the turbine’s center of gravity:
In a suitable crane 35, the lifting yoke 5 can be mounted and designed to lift the WTG 9, which is attached at a predeteπnined point near the top of the tower 8 and below the nacelle 13. By lifting the WTG 9 at the top of the tower 8, it will be conveniently close to the centre of gravity that will make the lift of the WTG 9 a stable but heavy lift.