Archive for the ‘Biofuels & Biomaterials’ category

DuPont: Green Chemistry and Sustainability Efforts in Action

August 21st, 2012

According to the EPA, “green chemistry” is defined as:
“…The design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. Green chemistry applies across the life cycle of a chemical product, including its design, manufacture, and use.”

DuPont owns countless patent and patent applications that would fall under the “green chemistry” definition, but unbeknownst to some, green chemistry has been an integral part of DuPont’s business strategy since the company began.

DuPont began in 1802 on the Brandywine River in Delaware. What started out as a gunpowder company with only 40 employees grew to be one of the nation’s largest companies. As an initial producer of explosives, the company was concerned with safe business practices and product stewardship starting on day one.

“It’s built into the company’s DNA,” Dr. Henry Bryndza, Director of Bio-Chemical Sciences and Engineering at DuPont noted. DuPont expanded rapidly within its first century of commercialization and continued its commitment to employee and consumer health and safety; the company established the first industrial toxicology lab in North America, dedicated to product stewardship.

In the early 1990’s, convinced that environmental stewardship went hand-in-hand with good business practices, DuPont created a set of environmental goals to be reached by 2010. By 2006, under the guidance of CEO Chad Holliday, the company had met or exceeded all of the goals, and set new goals for 2015.

Holliday realized that it was imperative to find a more sustainable way for the company and its customers to grow. He helped shape the role of research and development to one that focused on alternatives that were sustainable. DuPont abides by eleven criteria for every research project it takes on, ranging from climate change, energy use, and water consumption, to use of depleting resources.

“Green chemistry and its principles are involved in everything we do, whether it’s the next generation of drought resistant seeds, non-global warming refrigerants, or renewable polymers,” explained Bryndza.

So let’s take a closer look at a green product that’s currently in the works at DuPont: Solamet® metallization pastes. DuPont Solamet® photovoltaic metallization pastes are used in manufacturing solar cells and are designed to raise their efficiency.

The pastes are protected by a variety of patents, including composition patents that cover silver compositions that are used on the front side of solar cells and aluminium compositions used on the back side surface, for example US Patent No. 8,158,504, entitled Conductive Compositions and Processes for use in the Manufacture of Semiconductor Devices–Organic Medium Components.

“DuPont is a leading innovator of photovoltaic (PV) metallizations, sold under the Solamet(r) brand, which have been instrumental in nearly doubling the efficiency of solar cells over the past dozen years,” said Peter Brenner, global photovoltaics marketing manager, DuPont Microcircuit Materials.

“DuPont has been granted nearly 200 patents related to photovoltaic applications globally since the start of 2008, and we have over thirteen hundred patent applications pending in this area globally. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year focused on advancing the efficiency, lifetime and cost competitiveness of solar energy to reduce global dependence on fossil fuels, and as we continue to develop new technology, we need to ensure it is protected.”

DuPont Microcircuit Materials recently filed two lawsuits against PV paste supplier Heraeus and one against its customer SolarWorld, for infringing on DuPont patents for Solamet® photovoltaic metallization pastes.

“We do not ignore theft and infringement and we will aggressively pursue other points in the supply chain where IP theft and infringement exists, including the production and sale of downstream products which incorporate ‘infringing’ materials by cell and module makers, as well as PV system developers, installers and owners,” stated Brenner.

Patent infringement in the clean tech industry is a hot issue, especially since research and development occur so rapidly. However, DuPont is sure to produce many interesting products in the upcoming decades, all while staying true to sustainable business practices.

* Rosemary Ostfeld is a contributor to Green Patent Blog.  Rosemary recently completed both her undergraduate and graduate education at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.  She will be studying Environmental Policy at the University of Cambridge this fall.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

August 10th, 2012

A number of green patent complaints have been filed in the last several weeks in the areas of biofuels, LEDs, gasoline recycling, and smart grid.

 

Biofuels

Butamax Advanced Biofuels v. Gevo, Inc.; Gevo, Inc. v. Butamax Advanced Biofuels

In the space of just one week, this mega-litigation grew 43% (by number of lawsuits filed) and 28.5% (by number of patents asserted), with Gevo filing another infringement complaint on July 30th, this time in the Eastern District of Texas, and Butamax adding a declaratory judgment (DJ) suit and a new infringement complaint in Delaware on July 31st and August 6th, respectively.

Gevo’s Complaint asserts U.S. Patent No. 8,232,089, entitled “Cytosolic isobutanol pathway localization for the production of isobutanol” and directed to a recombinant yeast microorganism for producing isobutanol in which the isobutanol producing metabolic pathway includes at least one isobutanol pathway enzyme - dihydroxy acid dehydratase - active in the cytosol of the microorganism (’089 Patent). 

Butamax filed a DJ Complaint the following day asserting it has not infringed the ’089 Patent and the patent is invalid. 

Butamax’s new infringement complaint alleges that Gevo infringes U.S. Patent No. 8,222,017, entitled “Ketol-acid reductoisomerase using NADH” (’017 Patent).  The ’017 Patent is directed to recombinant mutant ketol-acid reductoisomerase (KARI) enzymes for use in the biological synthesis of isobutanol.

With these latest salvos, I now count ten suits filed and nine asserted patents in this biobutanol battle.

 

LEDs

Relume Corporation Trust v. Leotek Electronics USA Corp.

Relume Corporation Trust v. GE Lighting Solutions LLC

Relume filed two patent infringement complaints on July 12, 2012, one against Leotek in the Eastern District of Michigan and the other against GE Lighting Solutions in Delaware.  Both complaints assert Reissue 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 GE’s GTxLED signal modules and Leotek’s IL3 Series LED traffic signal modules.

 

Schubert v. Cree, Inc.

Schubert v. Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.

Schubert v. Osram AG

In these three suits, each filed July 18, 2012 in Delaware federal court, Professor E. Fred Schubert of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) accuses Cree, Philips, and Osram of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,294,475 (’475 Patent).

The ’475 Patent is entitled “Crystallographic wet chemical etching of III-nitride material” and directed to method of processing a III-Nitride epitaxial layer system on a substrate, for example by etching to a selected depth or cleaving, and crystallographical etching the epitaxial layer system in order to obtain crystallographic plane surfaces.  These processes can be used to manufacture GaN-based LEDs.

According to the complaints (Schubert-Cree Complaint, Schubert-Osram Complaint, Schubert-Philips Complaint), Professor Schubert is the Founding Director of the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center at RPI and has made many significant contributions to the field of compound semiconductors.  

These cases have shades of the Gertrude Neumark Rothschild LED litigation saga (see,e.g., a previous post here), another professor and LED innovator who sued many LED makers and electronics companies for patent infringement. 

 

Bortex Industry Company Ltd. v. Fiber Optic Designs, Inc.

In this declaratory judgment complaint, filed July 25, 2012 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Bortex requests a DJ that Fiber Optic Designs’ U.S. Patent Nos. 7,220,022 (’022 Patent) and 7,934,852 (’852 Patent) are invalid, unenforceable, and not infringed.

The ’022 and ’852 Patents are related patents entitled “Jacketed LED assemblies and light strings containing same” and directed to LED strings having a transmissive cover and an integrally molded thermoplastic jacket at the opening of the cover to provide a seal at the opening against moisture and airborne contaminants.

 

Gasoline Recycling

Yellow Dog Technologies, LLC v. Fuel Recyclers, LLC

Yellow Dog filed this complaint on August 1, 2012 in federal court in Arizona accusing Fuel Recyclers of infringing U.S. Patent No. 8,165,781 (’781 Patent). 

The ’781 Patent is entitled “Fuel recovery” and directed to fuel pump controllers and software for operation of a fuel pump of a combustion engine so it pumps a predefined amount of fuel in the fuel line directly to a drain conduit.

 

Smart Grid

Electric Power Group, LLC v. Alstom, S.A.

Filed July 25, 2012 in the Central District of California, this complaint by Electric Power Group (EPG), a Pasadena, California, developer and distributor of electric grid monitoring solutions, accuses the French conglomerate Alstom and its U.S. division Alstom Grid of infringing U.S. Patent No. 8,060,259 (’259 Patent).

The ’259 Patent is entitled “Wide-area, real-time monitoring and visualization system” and directed to a wide-area real-time performance monitoring system for monitoring and assessing dynamic stability of an electric power grid.

Cofactor Key Factor as Gevo Dodges Injunction

June 26th, 2012

Biobutanol maker Gevo dodged a bullet with a big win last week in its expanding patent war with Butamax Advanced Biofuels (Butamax) (see previous posts herehere, here, here, here, and the post on Butamax’s opening shot).

While Butamax did have exactly one week of satisfaction after the District Court for the District of Delaware issued a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting any new sales of Gevo’s bio-based isobutanol, the bigger victory went to Gevo when the court denied Butamax’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

Butamax had requested the court enjoin Gevo from infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,993,889, entitled “Fermentive production of four carbon alcohols” (’889 Patent).  The ’889 Patent is directed to a more cost efficient method of producing isobutanol directly from pyruvate via a particular production pathway using recombinant microbial host cells.

To determine whether Butamax was likely to succeed on the merits (and thus deserving of preliminary injunctive relief) the court zeroed in on the heart of the infringement question, which turns on the interpretation of a key claim term.

More particularly, the parties disputed the meaning of the term “acetohydroxy acid isomeroreductase enzyme,” also known as a “KARI.”  KARI is the enzyme used in one of the steps of claim 1 of the ’889 Patent.

A KARI needs a cofactor that donates electrons to enable it to catalyze a reaction, and the issue was whether a KARI is defined with respect to NADPH or NADH cofactors.

Critical to resolution of this issue, the ’889 Patent expressly defines acetohydroxy acid isomereductase as:

an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of acetolactate to 2,3-dihydroxyisovalerate using NADPH (reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate) as an electron donor

The court noted that the ’889 Patent specifically states that other enzymes use “NADH and/or NADPH as an electron donor.” 

Guided by the statements in Butamax’s ’889 Patent, the court construed acetohydroxy acid isomeroreductase as being defined with respect to NADPH only:

Accordingly, the court interprets the term acetohydroxy acid isomeroreductase in the manner in which plaintiff defined it, namely, as an enzyme that is solely NADPH-dependent (as opposed to NADH-dependent or NADH and NADPH-dependent).

Because Gevo uses an NADH-dependent enzyme, the court found it unlikely that Butamax would prevail on infringement of the ’889 Patent:

[B]y defining the KARI as exclusively NADPH-dependent, plaintiff has placed defendant’s use of an NADH-dependent, or primarily NADH-dependent enzyme, outside the scope of claim 1.

As to validity of the ’889 Patent, the court observed that claims 1 and 14 have been rejected as anticipated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office upon reexamination.

The patent examiner based his rejection on the inherent capability of enzymes in yeast cells to carry out the anabolic pathway claimed in the ’889 Patent:

[Y]east converting pyruvate to isobutanol inherently possesses the enzymes capable of carrying out isobutanol synthetic pathway reactions found in claim 1.

Due to the questionable validity of the ’889 Patent and Gevo’s strong non-infringement position, the court denied Butamax’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

A couple of days after the preliminary injunction decision, the court issued an opinion on Butamax’s motion on the pleadings in which it denied Butamax’s motion for a judgment that it does not infringe Gevo’s U.S. Patent Nos. 8,017,375 and 8,017,376.

The court found the infringement claims “particularly ill suited for disposition on a motion of judgment” because of the complexity of the technology but did indicate it might be willing to entertain focused discovery to expedite resolution of the claim.

So Butamax has stumbled out of the gate, but will no doubt continue the race.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

June 9th, 2012

There have been several green patent complaints filed in the past several weeks in the fields of biofuels, LEDs, solar power, and industrial water purification.

 

Biofuels

Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC v. Gevo, Inc.

On May 15, 2012, Butamax filed suit against Gevo in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware alleging Gevo is infringing one of its patents related to the production of isobutanol using recombinant microorganisms. 

This suit is the latest in the expanding litigation between Gevo and Butamax (see, e.g., previous posts here, here, here, here, and the post on Butamax’s opening shot).

The asserted patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,178,328, entitled “Fermentive Production of Four Carbon Alcohols” (’328 Patent).  The ‘328 Patent is the latest in a family of patents – including U.S. Patent Nos. 7,993,889 and 7,851,188  – that Butamax has been asserting against Gevo.

According to the Butamax complaint, the ‘328 Patent discloses and claims certain recombinant microbial host cells comprising an engineered isobutanol biosynthetic pathway.

Butamax alleges that Gevo uses recombinant microbial host cells capable of producing isobutanol that embody the invention in the ‘328 Patent, and that Gevo’s U.S. Patent No. 8,097,440 includes examples of such infringing host cells.

Gevo is seeking a judgment that Gevo infringes the ‘328 Patent, preliminary and permanent injunctions, and monetary damages.

 

Neste Oil Oyj v. Dynamic Fuels, LLC et al.

Neste Oil Oyj filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware on May 29, 2012 against Dynamic Fuels, Syntroleum Corporation and Tyson Foods, alleging Defendants’ synthetic renewable diesel fuels infringe U.S. Patent No. 8,187,344 (’344 Patent).

The ’344 Patent is entitled “Fuel Composition for a Diesel Engine” and directed to diesel fuels made from animal, plant, or fish fatty acids.

Dynamic Fuels is a joint venture of Syntroleum and Tyson Foods that operates refineries capable of producing allegedly infringing synthetic renewable diesel fuels using the necessary biological feedstock.

According to the Neste complaint, the Dynamic Fuels plant has produced substantial volumes of the accused product over the past couple of years.

Neste  is seeking a judgement of infringement of the ’344 Patent, a permanent injunction, and monetary damages.

 

LEDs

Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation et al. v. Power Integrations, Inc.

Filed May 1, 2012 in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation and System General Corporation’s (collectively “Fairchild”) complaint alleges that Power Integrations infringes four patents owned by Fairchild:

U.S. Patent No. 7,525,259, entitled “Primary Side Regulated Power Supply System With Constant Current Output” (’259 Patent);

U.S. Patent No. 7,286,123, entitled “LED Driver Circuit Having Temperature Consideration” (’123 Patent);

U.S. Patent No. 7,616,461, entitled “Control Method and Circuit with Indirect Input Voltage Detection by Switching Current Slope Detection” (’461 Patent); and

U.S. Patent No. 7,259,972, entitled “Primary-Side-Control Power Converter Having a Switching Controller Using Frequency Hopping and Voltage and Current Control Loops” (’972 Patent).

Fairchild alleges that Power Integrations’ LinkSwitch-PH controllers infringe the ‘259, ‘123, and ‘461 Patents.

According to Fairchild’s complaint, Power Integrations’ LinkSwitch-II and Linkswitch-CV devices were previously found to infringe claims 6, 7, 18, and 19 of the ‘972 Patent.  

However, Fairchild alleges that the same day, Power Integrations issued a press release encouraging customers to continue using the infringing products by stating that its customers are unaffected by the verdict. As such, Fairchild claims that Power Integrations is now inducing infringement of claims 6, 7, 18, and 19 of the ‘972 Patent.

Fairchild is seeking a judgment of infringement, an injunction, and monetary damages.

 

Ruud Lighting, Inc. v. Cooper Lighting, LLC

On May 23, 2012, Ruud Lighting filed suit against Cooper Lighting in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin seeking a permanent injunction and monetary damages for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,952,262 (’262 Patent).

Entitled “Modular LED Unit Incorporating Interconnected Heat Sinks Configured to Mount and Hold Adjacent LED Modules,” the ’262 Patent is directed to a modular LED unit including one or more LED modules, each bearing an array of LEDs and secured to a heat sink.

Ruud manufactures and sells numerous LED products embodying the invention of the ‘262 Patent for area and street lighting applications and certain floodlight lighting products.

According to the Ruud complaint, Cooper sells a product known as its “Generation Series LED Post Top Luminaire,” which infringes the ‘262 Patent.

 

Solar

Rena GMBH v. M.E. Baker Company

Rena GMBH filed suit against M.E. Baker Company on May 3, 2012 in  the United States District Court for the Central District of California.  Rena is alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,943,526, entitled “Process for the Wet-Chemical Treatment of One Side Silicon Wafers” (’526 Patent).

The ‘526 Patent is directecd to a process for wet-chemical treatment of one side of a silicon wafer using a liquid bath.  The patented invention improves upon prior processes for protecting or masking the surfaces that are not to be chemically treated.

According to the Rena Complaint, M.E. Baker Company’s treatment process infringes the ’526 Patent. 

Rena GMBH is seeking a permanent injunction and monetary damages

 

Water Purification

Calgon Carbon Corporation et al. v. Remote Light Water, Inc.

Calgon Carbon Corporation and Hyde Marine, Inc. (collectively “Calgon”) filed suit against Remote Light Water (RLW), seeking a declaratory judgment of non-infringement and invalidity of RLW’s U.S. Patents Nos. 6,447,721 (’721 Patent) and 6,403,030 (’030 Patent).

Filed May 8, 2012 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Calgon’s Complaint alleges that counsel for RLW sent a letter offering Calgon a license under the ’721 and ’030 Patents for Calgon’s Sentinal UV drinking water disinfectant product.

The ‘721 Patent describes a UV disinfection system comprising at least one light source with controllable UV light output that has at least one UV dose zone for providing effective sterilization of microorganisms within the water.  The ’030 Patent describes a similar process effective for treating waste-containing fluid.

According to the Complaint, Calgon has reasonable apprehension that RLW will sue for infringement because RLW is “in the business of enforcing its patent portfolio through litigation.” 

*Jeff Woodley is a contributor to Green Patent Blog.  Jeff is a summer associate at McKenna Long & Aldridge and is currently in his final year at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.  He received his undergraduate degree in Economics also from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

May 4th, 2012

There have been several green patent complaints filed in the past several weeks in the fields of biofuels, LEDs, lithium ion batteries, and industrial water purification.

 

Biofuels

Gevo, Inc. v. Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC and E.I. DuPont De Nemours and Co.

On April 10, 2012, Gevo filed suit against Butamax and DuPont in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware alleging Butamax and DuPont are infringing one of its patents related to the production of isobutanol.  This suit is the latest salvo in litigation between Gevo and Butamax.  (see previous posts here, here, here, and most recently here.)

The asserted patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,153,415, entitled “Reduced By-Product Accumulation for Improved Production of Isobutanol” (the ‘415 Patent).  The ’415 Patent issued on April 10, 2012, the same day Gevo filed this latest suit against Butamax. 

According to the complaint (Gevo-Butamax_Complaint-4-10-12), the ‘415 Patent describes “recombinant isobutanol-producing microorganisms containing a disruption in the expression or activity of an endogenous 3-keto acid reductase activity and methods for producing isobutanol using such organisms.”

Gevo’s complaint alleges Butamax makes infringing microorganisms to produce isobutanol through deletion or inactivation of the YMR226c gene.  Gevo claims Butamax describes its infringing process in PCT Publication No. WO/2011/159853, entitled “Recombinant Host Cells Comprising Phosphoketolases”, and PCT Publication No. WO/2011/159998 entitled “Production of Alcohol Esters and In Situ Product Removal During Alcohol Fermentation”.

Gevo is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions and damages.

 

LEDs

Whelen Engineering Company, Inc. v. CPS Emergency LED Lighting & Equipment

Filed March 29, 2012 in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, Whelen’s complaint (Whelen Complaint) alleges CPS infringed U.S. Patent Nos. 6,641,284, entitled “LED Light Assembly”, and D500,384, entitled “Reflector for Light Assembly”.

Whelen also alleges CPS has infringed several of its trademarks.  The marks at issue are Whelen’s LINEAR-LED, FREEDOM and VERTEX marks.  Whelen claims CPS has either used identical marks or confusingly similar marks.

Whelen is seeking treble and punitive damages and injunctive relief.  They are also seeking CPS’s alleged infringing products be destroyed.

Lektron, Inc. v. iLight Technologies, Inc.

Lektron, Inc. v. Philips Solid-State Lighting Solutions, Inc.

Lektron, Inc. v. The Sloan Company, Inc. dba SloanLED, Inc.

On April 6, 2012, Lektron filed three separate suits in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma alleging that iLight, Philips and SloanLED have each infringed U.S. Patent No. 6,361,186 entitled “Simulated Neon Light Using LED’s” (’186 Patent).  (Each complaint can be viewed here: (Lektron-iLight Complaint) (Lektron-Philips Complaint) (Lektron-Sloan Complaint)).

The ’186 Patent describes a product designed to replace traditional neon lights with a more durable product that consumed less energy by replacing fragile glass tubes with energy efficient LED lights.  The Lektron product is sold under the LEON trademark.

Lektron is alleging direct infringement and is seeking injunctive relief and damages from each defendant.

Everlight Electronics Co. Ltd., and Emcore Corporation v. Nichia Corporation, and Nichia America Corporation

On April 19, 2012, Everlight filed suit against Nichia (Everlight-Nichia Complaint) in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, seeking declaratory judgment for patent non-infringement, invalidity, and unenforceability of two of Nichia’s patents, and alleging Nichia is infringing one of its patents.

Everlight is seeking declaratory judgment for patent non-infringement, invalidity, and unenforceability of two patents owned by Nichia:  U.S. Patent Nos. 5,998,925 entitled “Light Emitting Device Having a Nitride Compound Semiconductor and Phosphor Containing Garnet Fluorescent Material” (’925 Patent), and 7,531,960 entitled “Light Emitting Device with Blue Light LED and Phosphor Components” (’960 Patent).

Nichia recently filed suit against an Everlight customer in a Tokyo District Court asserting the Japanese counterpart to the ’970 Patent (Japanese Patent No. 4350094).  Nichia also filed suit against Everlight in Germany asserting the European counterpart to the ’925 Patent (European Patent No. EP 0 936 682). 

According to the Everlight complaint, Nichia has threatened litigation over several other patents in Japan, and Everlight prevailed in a patent infringement action initiated by Nichia in Taiwan.  This suit, filed by Everlight, is in response to the suits Nichia has filed and the threats Nichia has made to Everlight’s potential clients.

In addition to seeking declaratory judgment for non-infringement and invalidity, Everlight is seeking declaratory judgment that the ’960 and ’925 patents are unenforceable due to fraud and inequitable conduct during prosecution by Nichia.

Everlight is also asserting that Nichia infringes U.S. Patent No. 6,653,215 entitled “Contact to N-GaN with Au Termination” (’215 Patent).  Everlight is seeking damages, attorney fees and costs.

 

Lithium Ion Batteries

Energizer Holdings, Inc., Eveready Battery Company, Inc., v. Wahl Clipper Corp., and Wahl Clipper Ningbo Ltd.

Filed April 11, 2012 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, Energizer’s complaint (Energizer_Complaint) alleges that Wahl infringes several of its patents.  The patents in dispute are U.S. Patent Nos.:

5,290,414 entitled “Separator/Electrolyte Combination For a Nonaqueous Cell”;

7,923,138 entitled “Housing for a Sealed Electrochemical Battery Cell”;

7,968,230 entitled “High Discharge Capacity Lithium Battery”;

8,007,940 entitled “Separator/Electrolyte Combination For a Nonaqueous Cell”; and

RE41,866 entitled “Nonaqueous Electrochemical Cell with Improved Energy Density”.

Energizer claims Wahl makes, offers for sale, imports and is selling products containing the asserted patents in its Lithium Pen Trimmer.  They are seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions, treble damages and attorney fees.

 

Water Purification

Aquatech International Corp., and Debasish Mukhopadhyay v. N.A. Water Systems, LLC, and Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies Support

On April 4, 2012, Aquatech filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against Water Systems and Veolia Water seeking a declaratory judgment that U.S. Patent No. 7,815,804, entitled “Method for Treating Wastewater or Produced Water” (’804 Patent), owned by N.A. Water and Veolia ( a subsidiary of N.A. Water), is invalid and unenforceable and that its products do not infringe the ’804 Patent. (Aquatech Complaint)

Aquatech is a licensee of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,925,255 entitled “Method and Apparatus for High Efficiency Reverse Osmosis Operation” and 6,537,456 entitled “Method and Apparatus for High Efficiency Reverse Osmosis Operation” (though these patents are not asserted in this complaint). 

Aquatech’s patents related to its HERO water purification process.  The HERO process uses the patents in a high efficiency reverse osmosis water purification process which is used in many industries including power generation, petrochemical, and microelectronics.  The HERO technologies have been licensed to companies such as General Electric and Intel.

Aquatech claims N.A. and Veolia have coerced and intimidated potential customers into using Veolia’s OPUS water purification process (described in the ’804 Patent) under threat of patent litigation – claiming the HERO process infringes upon the OPUS process.  Aquatech claims Veolia knew, or should have known, that the HERO process does not infringe the OPUS process and that such claims of infringement were false.

Aquatech is seeking a declaration that the HERO process does not infringe the OPUS process, that each claim of the ’804 patent is invalid, and that the ’804 Patent is unenforcable due to inequitable conduct.

Brazil is the First BRIC to Fall From the Anti-Green Patent Wall

April 26th, 2012

 Last week we reported the launch of the Brazilian National Institute of Industrial Property’s (INPI) pilot program to accelerate green patent applications.

But there’s a lot more to this story than meets the eye.  Though INPI joins several other national intellectual property offices around the world in offering a green patent fast track, this is not simply another instance of such a program.

This is because, with respect to green patents, Brazil is not like any of the other countries that offer accelerated examination programs.

With the launch of this pilot program, Brazil becomes the first of any emerging market or developing country to signal anything remotely resembling a positive view of patents directed to green technologies and their role in combating climate change. 

Along with China and India, Brazil has been at the forefront of the G77 nations pushing to weaken or eliminate intellectual property rights in green technologies in the UN climate change treaty discussions over the last several years (see, e.g., my previous post here).

These countries have been arguing that IP rights act as a barrier to transfer and deployment of green technologies and have proposed a host of policy prescriptions to remove that perceived barrier. 

Those include compulsory licensing for such technologies, guaranteed access to green technologies on royalty-free terms, excluding green technologies from patent protection, and revoking existing patents on green technologies.

Consider these sentiments expressed by Haroldo de Oliviera Machado Filho, a senior climate change advisor to the Brazilian government, in 2009 in the run-up to the UN Copenhagen meeting (see articles here and here):

Leaders should consider the possibility of allowing “compulsory licensing” for green technologies.

Intellectual property systems are seen as “a significant barrier” in transferring technology from rich to poor nations.

“With [global warming mitigation] technologies there should be an understanding that patents must not be an obstacle for developing countries.”

But the launch of INPI’s green patent fast track last week obviously sends a different message and apparently signals a reversal in Brazil’s policy toward green patents. 

Consider this from Douglas Santos Alves, a researcher at INPI who participated in developing the pilot program:

“We will accelerate because we want clean technology to get to society soon…We cannot wait six years for an environmental solution to be applied in the market.”

Clearly, Brazil has reached an inflection point in its attitude toward green patents. 

So what happened in the last three years to cause this 180 degree turn? 

I don’t have a definitive answer, but there are some clues.

Brazil is a global leader in at least one green technology area:  biofuels.  The country has been making ethanol from sugar cane for years and has developed a sustainable market around it.

Thus, Brazil has some important domestic biofuels champions such as Cosan, a major ethanol producer.

This success has also attracted the attention and business of many American companies, from oil giants such as Shell to biofuels startups like Amyris and Solazyme.

All of these players need patent protection in Brazil and may have been turned off by the unduly long (5+ years) average application processing time in INPI.

This reversal by Brazil may represent a significant moment in green patent history.

I suspect it’s just a matter of time before other BRICs and developing countries that have been united against green patents break from the past and join Brazil in respecting and promoting them. 

China, in particular, with its strong solar industry, seems a likely candidate for the next BRIC to fall.

Enough NOxious Gases: Biogas & Electric Cuts Emissions from Anaerobic Digesters

April 13th, 2012

 Biogas & Electric, located in San Diego, California, has developed technology that reduces harmful emissions created during anaerobic digestion.

Anaerobic digestion may serve as a renewable energy source, and reduce methane when utilized at wastewater treatment plants, dairies, and landfills. Seth Burns was intrigued by benefits of turning waste to a resource, but realized one of the biggest challenges for the anaerobic digester industry was to reduce the harmful emissions generated by the process.

Stringent standards enforced by the California Air and Resources Board (CARB), and other regional air boards require the reduction of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emitted during the anerobic digestion process. NOx is known to cause an array of health problems including asthma.

In an effort to make the anaerobic digestion process more environmentally sound, Mike Matelich, process chemist and inventor of the process, and Burns partnered to develop a way to reduce NOx and SOx emissions.

The technology is an add-on solution to the biogas engine. The add-on puts the biogas engine exhaust in contact with the liquid waste stream from the anaerobic digester.

“Mike determined that certain chemicals are endogenous to the waste stream, such as ammonia, which can scrub the NOx out of the exhaust stream,” stated Burns.

The bench scale prototype chemical reaction that occurs reduces NOx and SOx, the precursors to smog and acid rain respectively, by greater than 95% each.

Burns and Matelich hope to replicate these results in the field at full scale. The following diagram outlines the process:

U.S. Patent No. 8,012,746, entitled “NOx Removal Systems for Biogas Engines at Anaerobic Digestion Facilities,” describes the Biogas and Electric technology (’746 Patent).

According to Burns, a provisional patent application was filed at the end of December 2009. The non-provisional, filed September 15, 2010, enjoyed accelerated examination via the now-defunct U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Green Technology Pilot Program (GTPP) (read about some fast track alternatives post-GTPP here). The ’746 Patent issued September 6, 2011, just under a year from the non-provisional filing date.

The company has received funding from USDA-NIFA SBIR Phase I and Phase II research grants and from Waste Management. A full-scale dairy-based demonstration project is being constructed in Imperial County, California. The technology will be utilized on a 300 kW biogas engine.

Previous technologies have only been able to reduce NOx to 9ppm, but Burns and Matelich are confident that their technology will be able to reduce NOx emissions enough to meet the stringent CARB standard of 2 ppm.

Burns and Matelich plan to build a demo project within the wastewater treatment industry, and begin installing their solution for revenue.

* Rosemary Ostfeld is a contributor to Green Patent Blog.  Rosemary recently completed both her undergraduate and graduate education at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.  She double majored in Biology, and Earth & Environmental Sciences as an undergraduate, and received her Master’s in Earth & Environmental Sciences.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

April 3rd, 2012

There have been several green patent complaints filed in the past several weeks in the fields of biofuels, home electrical control systems, battery chargers, and LEDs.

 

Biofuels

Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC v. Gevo, Inc.

On March 12, 2012, Butamax filed suit against Gevo in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, alleging infringement of one of its patents relating to the production of isobutanol with recombinant microorganisms. (Butamax-Gevo_Complaint_3-12-12).

The asserted patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,129,162, entitled “Ketol-Acid Reductoisomerase using NADH” (the ‘162 patent).  The ‘162 patent discloses certain recombinant mutant ketol-acid reductoisomerase enzymes, commonly called “KARI Enzymes”.  The KARI Enzymes disclosed in the ‘162 Patent function efficiently in microbial systems designed to produce isobutanol.

Butamax alleges Gevo is making and using KARI Enzymes disclosed in the ‘162 Patent.  Butamax is seeking a judgment that Gevo is infringing the ‘162 Patent, preliminary and permanent injunctions, and damages.

Gevo, Inc. v. Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC

On March 13, 2012, Gevo filed suit against Butamax in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware alleging Butamax infringed one of its patents related to the production of isobutanol.  This suit was filed the day after Butamax filed suit against Gevo, and on the same day Gevo’s patent issued and adds to the growing litigation between these advanced biofuels rivals (see previous posts here, here and here.

The asserted patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,133,715, entitled “Reduced By-Product Accumulation for Improved Production of Isobutanol” (the ‘715 Patent).  According to the complaint (Gevo-Butamax_Complaint), the ‘715 Patent describes “recombinant isobutanol-producing microorganisms containing a disruption in the expression or activity of an endogenous 3-keto acid reductase activity and methods for producing isobutanol using such organisms.”

Gevo’s complaint alleges Butamax makes infringing microorganisms to produce isobutanol through deletion or inactivation of the YMR226c gene.  Gevo claims Butamax describes its infringing process in PCT Publication No. WO/2011/159853, entitled “Recombinant Host Cells Comprising Phosphoketolases”.

Gevo is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions and damages.

 

Home Electrical Control Systems

Powerline Innovations, LLC v. Elk Products, Inc., et al.

Filed March 13, 2012 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division, Powerline’s complaint (Powerline-Elk_Complaint) alleges defendants infringe U.S. Patent No. 5,471,190, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Resource Allocation in a Communication Network System” (the ‘190 Patent).

According to the complaint, each defendant is accused of infringing the ’190 Patent in products they sell “which employ methods for establishing control relationships between plural devices in a home electrical system covered by one or more claims of the ‘190 Patent to the injury of [Powerline].”

 

Battery Chargers

Voltstar Technologies, Inc. v. AT&T Operations, Inc, et. al.

Voltstar filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division, alleging AT&T infringes two of its patents.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,910,833 entitled “Energy-Saving Power Adapter/Charger” (‘833 Patent), and 7,960,648 entitled “Energy Saving Cable Assemblies” (‘648 Patent).

The patents describe an energy saving battery charger that automatically shuts off when a device is fully charged or not plugged in, eliminating “vampire load”.  The charger is designed to reduce power consumption and extend battery life.

Voltstar is seeking a permanent injunction and damages.

 

LEDs

GE Lighting Solutions, LLC v. AgiLight, Inc.

Filed on February, 13, 2012 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, GE’s complaint (GE-Agilight_Complaint) alleges AgiLight infringes four of its patents.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos.:

7,160,140 entitled “LED String Light Engine”

7,520,771 entitled “LED String Light Engine and Devices that are Illuminated by the String Light Engine”

7,633,055 entitled “Sealed Light Emitting Diode Assemblies Including Annular Gaskets and Method of Making Same”

7,832,896 entitled “LED Light Engine”

The patents relate to various components of LED string lights.  Some of the components GE asserts are infringing include overmolded wire housings, flexible electrical connectors, several annular gaskets, and dome shaped optical element covers for LED’s.

GE is seekeing injuntive relief and damages.

Koninklinjke Phillips Electronics N.V. et al. v. Nexxus Lighting, Inc.

Phillips filed a complaint (Philips-Nexxus_Complaint) in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts on March 26, 2012, alleging Nexxus infringed six of its patents.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos.:

6,013,988 entitled “Circuit Arrangement and Signalling Light Provided With the Circuit Arrangement”;

6,250,774 entitled “Luminaire”;

7,038,399 entitled “Methods and Apparatus for Providing Power to Lighting Devices”;

7,358,679 entitled “Dimmable LED-Based MR16 Lighting Apparatus and Methods”;

7,737,643 entitled “LED Power Control Methods and Apparatus”; and

7,802,902 entitled “LED Lighting Fixtures”

The accused products are Nexxus’ PAR 30, PAR38, R30, MR16, MR16-HO, R16-GU10 products.  Phillips is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions and damages.

David Gibbs is a contributor to Green Patent Blog.  David is currently in his third and final year at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.  He received his undergraduate degree in Geology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Start Your Engines: High-Octane Bio-Gas from Primus Green Energy

March 18th, 2012

As oil prices soar, the exploration of alternative fuel sources continues. Primus Green Energy, based in Hillsborough, New Jersey, has created a high quality, 93-octane bio-gasoline at a price that will be both competitive and profitable once production is scaled up.

According to Dr. George Boyajian, Primus Green Energy’s VP of Business Development, the company has numerous patent applications related to gasification, and the application of liquid fuel synthesis technology. The patent applications are in various stages of the application process, Dr. Boyajian stated, but he expects that several will be published by the end of this year.

Primus Green Energy’s technology can create 93-octane bio-gasoline from biomass or natural gas. Thus, the plant can still produce bio-gasoline using natural gas if needed, and will still yield the same high-quality product.

Miscanthus, an energy grass that can grow up to 15 tons per acre each year and does not displace fuel crops, is the biomass of choice.

The following diagram from the company website illustrates the basic process Primus Green Energy utilizes to create bio-gasoline:

First, the biomass is placed into a gasifier with steam, and through a thermochemical process, turns the substances into a syngas. The syngas is made of hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide. The syngas is then scrubbed to take out sulfur and carbon dioxide. A liquid fuel synthesis finally converts the syngas to 93-octane.

According to Dr. Boyajian, “The key to making the process efficient is having a ratio of 2.2 to 1 of hydrogen to carbon monoxide.” 93-octane is good for refiners and blenders due to its low vapor pressure, low corrosion, good cold flow properties, good lubricity, the right amount of aromatics, and low benzene.

The company currently has a pilot plant in Hillsborough, New Jersey that produces several kilograms of gasoline each hour, according to Dr. Boyajian. The continuous demonstration plant, which is also in Hillsborough, is currently under construction and will produce 30 kg of gasoline each hour upon completion. 

Recently, Primus Green Energy received a $12 million investment to complete its continuous demonstration plant. See the Bloomberg article for more information.

In 2013, Primus Green Energy expects to break ground on a commercial plant that will produce as much as 4.5 million gallons of bio-gasoline annually. The following pictures are of the Hillsborough, New Jersey plant:


Primus Green Energy’s lead investor is IC Green, a green energy arm of Israel Corporation, and the company’s engineering procurement construction contractor is Bechtel Corporation. The company also has an array of other partnerships with companies including Echotherm, ECO Energy, and Lockheed Martin.

Dr. Boyajian is confident in the technology and states, “Primus Green Energy makes gasoline and only gasoline. It is a high quality 93-octane gasoline that will be competitively priced and profitable, even if oil is only 60-70 dollars per barrel. Yields have been demonstrated repeatedly at 27% by weight, and yields are expected to reach 33%.”

* Rosemary Ostfeld is a contributor to Green Patent Blog.  Rosemary recently completed both her undergraduate and graduate education at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.  She double majored in Biology, and Earth & Environmental Sciences as an undergraduate, and received her Master’s in Earth & Environmental Sciences.

Butamax Bellicose in Burgeoning Biobutanol Battle

February 17th, 2012

A previous post included a discussion of the latest salvo in the growing green patent war between Colorado biofuels startup Gevo and Butamax, a BP-DuPont joint venture. 

The rivals both make biobutanol, an advanced biofuel which has some significant advantages over ethanol, including an energy content closer to that of gasoline and the capacity to create higher blend concentrations with gasoline.

In the most recent complaint (Gevo-Butamax_Complaint), filed in the federal court in Delaware on January 24, 2012, Gevo accuses Butamax of infringing U.S. Patent No. 8,101,808 (’808 Patent) by performing certain isobutanol production processes.

The ’808 Patent, granted on January 24, 2012, is entitled “Recovery of higher alcohols from dilute aqueous solutions” and directed to methods of recovering C3-C6 alcohols from a fermentation broth.

The latest complaint has prompted Butamax to fight back in the court of public opinion with a press release (see the story by Jim Lane (no relation) of Biofuels Digest here).  The release, entitled “Butamax Refutes Unfounded Allegations of Infringement,” quotes the company’s CEO, Paul Beckwith on non-infringement and invalidity of the ’808 Patent:

Let us state emphatically, Butamax does not infringe the generic product separation technology claims in Gevo’s recent patent, which is already subject to a validity challenge by a Brazilian inventor . . . . While it does not surprise us that questions are being raised as to the validity of Gevo’s latest patent and whether Gevo provided sufficient disclosure in their patent application, Butamax does not use this technology.

The press release characterizes Butamax’s technology as having “fundamentally different product recovery systems” and providing “a unique synergy between the company’s biocatalyst technology and product recovery system.”

Butamax fired the first shot in this dispute with a patent infringement suit filed in January 2011, in which it accused Gevo of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,851,188, entitled “Fermentive production of four carbon alcohols” (’188 Patent).  A second suit, filed in August 2011, alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,993,889 (’889 Patent), a later issued patent of the same title related to the ’188 Patent.

According to the press release, the’889 Patent covers Butamax’s technology and has ”significant priority over all of Gevo’s patent filings.”

In addition, the press release touches on a few procedural points:  it says that Butamax has moved to dismiss ”Gevo’s previous case” against it, will “pursue early resolution” of the latest suit, and with respect to its own infringement charges, indicates that Butamax is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction against Gevo.

As mentioned in previous posts, this is the first instance I’ve seen of biofuels patent litigation involving one of the oil majors, which clearly have begun to use patent litigation to protect their new turf.