Archive for January, 2016

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

January 26th, 2016

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

 

LEDs

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Ace Hardware Corporation

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Bulbrite Industries, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. FEIT Electronic Co.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. G7 Corporation

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Ikea North America Services LLC

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

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Philips Electronics North America Corp.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Technical Consumer Products, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. TigerDirect, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Torchstar Corp.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Ushio America, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Wayfair LLC

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Westinghouse Lighting Corp.

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

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

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

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

 

Smart Grid

Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. Firetide, Inc.

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

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

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

Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. FluidMesh Networks LLC

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

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

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

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

 

Clean Energy Management Solutions, LLC v. Eaton Corp.

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

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

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

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

 

Atlas IP, LLC v. City of Naperville

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

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

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

 

Water Treatment

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Top Green IP Stories of 2015

January 19th, 2016

2015

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

 

5.  Automaker Eco-marks

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

3.  EV Patent Commons

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

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

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

 

2.  High-tech Greenwashing

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

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

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

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

 

1. Biobutanol Patent Warriors Settle

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

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

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

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