Archive for the ‘Energy Efficiency’ category

Cleantech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

November 16th, 2016

A number of new green patent complaints were filed in September and October in the fields of battery chargers, green cleaning products, LEDs, smart grid, solar mounting systems, and water conservation.

 

Battery Chargers

VoltStar Technologies, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility, LLC

VoltStar sued AT&T October 19, 2016 alleging infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,910,833 (‘833 Patent) and 7,910,834 (‘834 Patent) relating to an energy saving power adapter/charger and accompanying cables.

The ‘833 Patent is entitled “Energy-saving power adapter/charger” and the ‘834 Patent is entitled “Energy saving cable assemblies.”   According to the complaint, the patents pertain to a battery charger and accompanying cables “that automatically shuts off when a device is fully charged or not plugged in, eliminating ‘vampire load.’ This feature reduces power consumption and extends battery life.”

The accused product is the AT&T ZERO Charger and accompanying cables..

 

Green Cleaning Products

Greenology Products, Inc. v. HealthPro Brands Inc.

A North Carolina company called Greenology Products sued HealthPro Brands in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Filed September 13, 2016, the complaint alleges that HealthPro’s FIT Organic cleaning products infringe U.S. Patent No. 9,217,127, entitled “Organic cleaning composition” (‘127 Patent).

The ‘127 Patent is directed to an organic cleaning mixture comprising from about five percent (5%) to about ninety five percent (95%) by weight soapberry extract, from about 0.1% to about 95% percent (95%) by weight saponified oil, and from about 0.5% to about thirty percent (30%) by weight of one or more of sodium carbonate, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, an alkali, and combinations thereof.

 

LEDs

Seoul Semiconductor Co. et al. v. K-mart Corporation

In a lawsuit filed September 9, 2016 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Seoul sued K-mart for infringement of eight LED patents:

U.S. Patent No. 6,942,731, entitled “Method for improving the efficiency of epitaxially produced quantum dot semiconductor components”

U.S. Patent No 6,942,731, entitled “Method for improving the efficiency of epitaxially produced quantum dot semiconductor components”

U.S. Patent No. 7,982,207, entitled “Light emitting diode”

U.S. Patent No. 7,626,209, entitled “Light emitting diode having active region of multi quantum well structure”

U.S. Patent No. 7,906,789, entitled “Warm white light emitting apparatus and back light module comprising the same”

U.S. Patent No. 7,951,626, entitled “Light emitting device and method of manufacturing the same”

U.S. Patent No. 8,664,638, entitled “Light-emitting diode having an interlayer with high voltage density and method for manufacturing the same”

U.S. Patent No. 8,860,331, entitled “Light emitting device for AC power operation”

U.S. Patent No. 9,240,529, entitled “Textured phosphor conversion layer light emitting diode”

The accused product is Spotlight’s Kodak LED Lighting Bulb 41063,

 

ilumisys, Inc. v. Woodforest Lighting Inc.

This lawsuit involves eleven patents relating to tubular LED replacements for fluorescent lighting tubes.

The complaint was filed September 15, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas and accuses Forest’s MT8-120 and Univ8 TLED products of infringing the following patents:

U.S. Patent No. 8,093,823, entitled “Light sources incorporating light emitting diodes”

U.S. Patent No. 8,382,327, entitled “Light tube and power supply circuit”

U.S. Patent No. 7,976,196, entitled “Method of forming LED-based light and resulting LED-based light”

U.S. Patent No. 9,072,171,  entitled “Circuit board mount for LED light”

U.S. Patent No. 7,815,338,  entitled “LED lighting unit including elongated heat sink and elongated lens”

U.S. Patent No. 9,006,993,  entitled “Light tube and power supply circuit”

U.S. Patent No. 9,222,626,  entitled “Light tube and power supply circuit”

U.S. Patent No. 8,866,396,  entitled “Light tube and power supply circuit”

U.S. Patent No. 7,510,299,  entitled “LED lighting device for replacing fluorescent tubes”

U.S. Patent No. 8,282,247,  entitled “Method of forming LED-based light and resulting LED-based light”

U.S. Patent No. 8,573,813,  entitled “LED-based light with supported heat sink”

 

Orion Energy Systems, Inc. v. Energy Bank, Inc.

Orion Energy Systems, Inc. v. Green Creative LLC

In a complaint filed September 18, 2016 in federal court in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Orion Energy Systems (Orion) asserted two related lighting patents against Energy Bank.

The patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,337,043 and 8,858,018, each entitled “Modular light fixture with power pack” and directed to light fixtures including first and second raceways, a support structure extending between and coupled to the raceways, a plurality of LEDs coupled to the structure and spaced apart, and a power pack  electrically coupled to the LEDs.

The accused products are Energy Bank’s LightSource light.

Orion brought another lawsuit, this one against Green Creative, alleging that the defendant’s 2X2′ and 2X4′ LED Troffer Retrofit Kits infringe U.S. Patent No. 9,206,948, entitled “Troffer light fixture retrofit systems and methods.”

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on September 30, 2016.

 

Jakuta Diodes, LLC v. Cree, Inc.

Jakuta Diodes, LLC v. American Honda Motor Co.

Jakuta Diodes, LLC v. Acuity Brands, Inc.

Jakuta Diodes, LLC v. Ford Motor Company

Jakuta Diodes, LLC v. General Motors Company

Jakuta Diodes, LLC v. Ledengin, inc.

Jakuta Diodes, LLC v. Soraa, Inc.

Jakuta Diodes, LLC v. Teledyne Reynolds, Inc.

Jakuta Diodes filed eight lawsuits on September 21, 2016 against a bunch of defendants including LED makers Acuity Brands, Cree, Ledengin, Soraa, and Teledyne Reynolds and automakers Honda, Ford and GM.

The complaints were all filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas and all assert the same patent – U.S. Patent No. 6,079,854 (‘854 Patent).

The ‘854 Patent is entitled “Device and method for diffusing light” and directed to a lighting device to diffuse a beam of light such as a main light beam in a headlamp, thereby substantially reducing the glare experienced by oncoming drivers and permitting high beams of the headlamp to be used in the presence of the oncoming drivers.

The light has a region segregated into a plurality of channels into which light from a concave lens is radiated to provide a diffused pattern of dispersed light to exit the front end of the lighting housing.
The Cree and Honda complaints (jakuta-diodes-llc-v-cree-inc; jakuta-diodes-llc-v-american-honda-motor-co-inc) are illustrative.  The accused Cree products are the DiamondFacet Lenses and WaveMax Technology, and the accused Honda products are the Jewel Eye LED Headlights sold in the Acura RLX model automobiles.

 

Blackbird Tech, LLC v. DAMAR Worldwide 4 LLC

Blackbird Tech, LLC v. EiKo Global, LLC

Blackbird Tech, LLC v. Halco Lighting Technologies, LLC

Blackbird Tech, LLC v. Health in Motion LLC et al.

Blackbird Tech, LLC v. Hyperikon, Inc.

Blackbird Tech, LLC v. Innoled Lighting Inc.

Blackbird Tech, LLC v. LEDi2, Inc. et al.

Blackbird Tech, LLC v. RemPhos Technologies LLC

Blackbird Tech, LLC v. Tadd, LLC

Blackbird Tech, LLC v. LLC Espen Technology Inc.

Not to be outdone, Blackbird fired off ten complaints in Delaware federal court October 19, 2016.

Each complaint asserted U.S. Patent No. 7,086,747, entitled “Low-voltage apparatus for satisfying after-hours light requirements, emergency light requirements, and low light requirements” (‘747 Patent).

The ‘747 Patent is directed to an energy efficient lighting apparatus wherein the circuit board is positioned adjacent the ballast cover so that the plurality of light-emitting diodes protrude through the plurality of ballast cover holes in the ballast cover, the lighting apparatus is coupled to a wall switch, and the illumination of the light-emitting diodes is controllable based upon the position of the wall switch.

The Innoled Lighting complaint is representative and says the defendant is infringing the ‘747 Patent by selling linear LED lighting products.

 

Lexington Luminance LLC v. LG Electronics et al.

In a complaint filed October 27, 2016 in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Lexington Luminance accused LG of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,936,851 (‘851 Patent).

The ‘851 Patent is entitled “Semiconductor light-emitting device and method for manufacturing the same” and is directed to LEDs having textured districts on the substrate such that inclined layers guide extended defects to designated gettering centers in the trench region where the defects combine with each other.  This structure reduces the defect density of the LEDs.

The accused products include various televisions, computer displays, mobile phones, and other electronic devices using LED illuminated LCD displays.

 

CAO Lighting, Inc. v. Light Efficient Design et al.

CAO Lighting brought an infringement action (cao-lighting-inc-v-light-efficient-design-et-al) against Light Efficient Design in federal court in Idaho on October 28, 2016.

CAO alleges infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,465,961 (‘961 Patent), entitled “Semiconductor light source using a heat sink with a plurality of panels” and directed to an LED light source with a heat sink that has multiple panels.  Each panel may host one or more LED chips, which can be arranged to transmit light in multiple directions.  More details on this patent can found in my previous post here.

The accused products include the 8000 Series lighting products such as the LED-8039E57 bulb and LED-8024E retrofit product.

Smart Grid

Grid Innovations, LLC v. The Electricity Reliability Council of Texas

GRID Innovations sued the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) for alleged infringement of two patents relating to trading and routing electric power.

The complaint was filed September 2, 2016 in federal court in Tyler, Texas and accuses ERCOT’s electric power trade and distribution systems, specifically the day-ahead and real-time energy markets of infringing the patents.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent No. 7,945,502 (‘502 Patent) and 9,256,905 (‘905 Patent).

The ‘502 Patent is entitled “Online trading and dynamic routing of electric power among electric service providers” and directed to a method and system for trading electric power on a spot market and dynamically matching bids and asks and routing the electric power in accordance with the matches to effect the settled trades.

The ‘905 Patent is entitled “Intelligent routing of electric power” and directed to a method and system for dynamically routing electric power in real time in accordance with parameters submitted by buyers and sellers of electric power using a feedback control scheme.

 

Clean Energy Management Solutions, LLC v. Cascade Energy, Inc.

Clean Energy Management Solutions, LLC v. Schneider Electric USA, Inc.

Clean Energy Management Solutions, LLC v. Siemens Corporation

Clean Energy Management Solutions, LLC v. SmartLabs, Inc.

Clean Energy Management Solutions, LLC v. Wink Inc. et al.

Clean Energy Management Solutions (CEMS) filed three complaints on September 6, 2016 in federal court in Marshall, Texas asserting U.S. Patent No. 6,577,962 against Cascade Energy, Schneider Electric, and Siemens (Cascade Energy complaint; Schneider Electric complaintSiemens complaintSmartLabs complaintWink complaint).

Entitled “System and method for forecasting energy usage load,” the ‘962 Patent is directed to systems and methods for forecasting energy usage load for a facility including a parameter identification module for determining periodic energy load usage of the facility and a load prediction module for generating energy usage load forecast profiles for the facility.  A set of matrices may include a matrix for storing coefficients for determining periodic changes in energy load usage, and a model parameter matrix for storing load parameter information.

The accused products are Cascade Energy’s SENSEI system, Schneider’s PowerLogic ION EEM system, and Siemens’ SIMATIC B.Data system.

On October 28th and 31st, respectively, CEMS also sued SmartLabs and Wink in the same court, alleging that SmartLabs’ Insteon home automation system and Wink’s home security and automation system infringe U.S. Patent No. 8,035,479 (‘479 Patent).

The ‘479 Patent is entitled “Mesh network door lock” and relates to systems and methods for sending a code from a mesh network key and wirelessly communicating the code with one or more mesh network appliances over a mesh network such as ZigBee, receiving the code over the mesh network by a mesh network lock controller, and providing access to the secured area upon authenticating the code.

 

JSDQ Mesh Technologies LLC v. S & C Electric Company

On October 20, 2016, JSDQ filed suit against S & C Electric Company in U.S. District Court for the Norther District of Illinois, alleging infringement of four patents relating to wireless routing systems used in smart grid networks.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,286,828 and 7,916,648, both entitled “Method of Call Routing and Connection,” RE43,675 entitled “Wireless Radio Routing System,” and RE44,607entitled, “Wireless Mesh Routing Method.”

JSDQ alleges that S& C Electric infringes the patents-in-suit because of its deployment of the SpeedNet Radio Networks.

 

Solar Mounting Systems

Rillito River Solar, LLC v. Wencon Development, Inc.

Rillito River Solar sued Wencon September 23, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

The complaint alleges that Wencon’s Quick Mount roof mounting system infringes three patents relating to solar mounting systems.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,526,701, entitled “Roof mount,” 9,010,038, entitled “Tile roof mount” and 9,422,723, entitled “Roofing grommet forming a seal between a roof-mounted structure and a roof.”

 

Water Conservation

Water Conservation Technology Int’l v. Roseburg Forest Products Co. et al.

This lawsuit involves five related patents pertaining to technologies for treating water in an environmentally friendly matter.

The patents are:

U.S. Patent No. 6,929,749, entitled “Cooling water scale and corrosion inhibition”

U.S. Patent No. 6,949,193, entitled “Cooling water scale and corrosion inhibition”

U.S. Patent No. 6,998,092, entitled “Cooling water scale and corrosion inhibition”

U.S. Patent No. 7,122,148, entitled “Cooling water scale and corrosion inhibition”

U.S. Patent No. 7,517,493, entitled “Cooling water corrosion inhibition method”

The complaint was filed by Water Conservation Technologies International (WCTI) September 9, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

WCTI alleges that the defendant continues to use the patented technologies for treating a cooling tower at defendant’s biomass cogeneration plant after termination of a contract between the parties.

FTC Amends Energy Labeling Rule to Create Online Label Database

October 19th, 2016

Since 1979, America’s consumers have benefited from the the Energy Labeling Rule, which requires energy labeling (specifically the EnergyGuide label) for major home appliances and other consumer products.

The Rule was promulgated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), America’s competition and consumer watchdog agency.

In some important amendments to the Rule published last month, the FTC has added several elements, most significantly an online label database (label image reporting).

Other changes include revised labels for ceiling fans, central air conditioners, and water heaters, as well as new refrigerator comparability range information and dual mode refrigerator labeling.

The amendments add to the existing reporting requirements a provision that manufacturers need to to provide links to online labels for existing products.  The links can be submitted either when they certify their models or as part of manufacturers’ regular annual FTC reporting.

Going forward, manufacturers will have to submit the required label links as part of all new model and annual reports.

The final rule provides three options for submitting label information: (1) through direct URL links to the labels themselves; (2) through links to a PDF download; or (3) through a link to a web site from which users can obtain labels by searching by product model number.

According to the regulations, the online label database requirement is intended to benefit both consumers and retailers by making it easier to research and access and energy data for appliances.

More particularly, retailers can use the data for advertising and replacing missing labels, obviating the need to obtain labels from individual manufacturers.  And consumers can use it to easily research comparative efficiency.

Eco-mark Update: A New Green Certification for Evaluating Power System Performance

September 12th, 2016

peer-logo_0

A new green certification has been added to the eclectic mix of independent third-party indicators of environmentally beneficial products, systems, buildings, etc.

Administered by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), which also runs the LEED certification for green buildings, the PEER certification (for Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal) measures power system performance.

More particularly, according to the PEER overview page:

PEER evaluates power generation, transmission, and distribution systems across desired outcomes of optimal efficiency, quality, reliability, and resiliency, and with minimized impact to the environment…PEER addresses power generation, transmission, and distribution–from the time it leaves the generator until it reaches the customer.

PEER includes a screening process to provide independent assessments of power system projects and a rating system for potential certification.

The rating system has four outcome-based credit categories and 68 credits.  Reliability & Resilience credits address power quality, supply availability, interruptions, risk mitigation, restoration, redundancy and microgrid capabilities.

Energy Efficiency & Environment credits address energy efficiency of power delivery, air emissions, resource use, renewable energy credits and power delivery impacts.

Operational Effectiveness credits address electricity costs, asset utilization, load shaping, general operation expenses, capital spending or investment, corrective maintenance and indirect costs.

Customer Contribution credits address customer grid service capability, meter data access, tools, choice, incentives and dynamic pricing.

According to the PEER web site, the new certification is important because of the environmental costs of relying on traditional energy sources and the costs of poor power quality:

Electricity is lost through conversion and waste, which has a negative impact on the environment as well as the economy. Reliance on non-renewable energy sources threatens our environment. Poor power quality can damage electrical devices. Power outages, usually as a result of severe weather, costs the economy billions of dollars a year and poses risks to critical infrastructure.

A search of the federal trademark records shows that GBCI owns U.S. Service Mark Registration No. 4,683,005 for the mark PERFORMANCE EXCELLENCE IN ELECTRICITY RENEWAL for the following services in Class 41:

Education services, namely, providing courses and classes for teaching professionals in the fields of achieving a standard level of performance in terms of electricity sustainability including: reliability, power, quality, safety, energy efficiency, environment, cost efficiency, and customer engagement

While educational services are important, given the central focus on independent certification, it seems odd that GBCI hasn’t applied for a certification mark registration for the word PEER, the full phrase, and/or the PEER logo shown above.

Certification marks differ from ordinary trademarks and service marks in that, instead of indicating the commercial source of a product or service, they communicate that goods or services meet certain quality or manufacturing standards.  They are owned not by the individual businesses, but by the organizations that set the standards.

For further discussion of certification marks see my previous posts here, here, and here.

Regardless of its trademark protection strategy, GBCI remains a force in green certifications and the new PEER certification has the potential to have a major positive impact on power generation, transmission, and distribution.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Upate

July 29th, 2016

A number of new green patent infringement complaints were filed in May and June in the areas of green cleaning solvents, LEDs, lighting control technology, smart thermostats, smart meters, and water meters.

 

Green Cleaning Solvents

GreenEarth Cleaning, LLC v. Kings Park Green Cleaners, LLC

This action for patent infringement, trademark infringement, and breach of contract was filed June 21, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Although the complaint lists nine patents, there is only one count of patent infringement asserting U.S. Patent No. 5,942,007 (‘007 Patent).

The ‘007 Patent is entitled “Dry cleaning method and solvent” and directed to dry cleaning methods comprising the steps of immersing clothes in a dry cleaning fluid including a cyclic siloxane composition, agitating the clothes in the composition, and then removing the cyclic siloxane composition by centrifugal action and air circulation.

According to the Abstract of the ‘007 Patent, the “cyclic-siloxane-based solvent allows the system to result in an environmentally friendly process which is, also, more effective in cleaning fabrics and the like than any known prior system.”

GreenEarth alleges that Kings Park, which had a license from GreenEarth, continues to use liquid silicone as a dry cleaning solvent though it is no longer a licensee.

 

LEDs

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Hubbell Inc. et al.

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. American De Rosa Lamparts, LLC

Lighting Science filed both of these lawsuits in federal court in Orlando, Florida on June 21, 2016.

Both complaints assert U.S. Patent No. 8,201,968 (‘968 Patent), U.S. Patent No. 8,967,844 (‘844 Patent), and U.S. Patent No. 8,672,518 (‘518 Patent).

Entitled “Low profile light,” 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.

The ‘518 Patent and the’ 844 Patent are entitled “Low profile light and accessory kit for the same” and relate to LSG’s disc light LED devices.

Hubbell’s “Surface Mount” family of products are the subject of the Hubbell complaint, and the American De Rosa complaint lists the F9908-30, F9901-30-1, F9904-30-1, and F9906-30-1 products.

 

Nichia Corporation v. Mary Elle Fashions, Inc.

Nichia Corporation v. Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

Nichia Corporation v. Feit Electric Company, Inc.

These three actions, filed June 13, 2016, accuse each defendant of infringing U.S. Patent No. 8,530,250 (‘250 Patent).

Entitled “Light emitting device, resin package, resin-molded body, and methods for manufacturing light emitting device, resin package and resin-molded body,” the ‘250 Patent is directed to a method of manufacturing an LED such that the optical reflectivity at a wavelength of 350-800 nm after thermal curing is 70% or more.

The method includes the steps of sandwiching a leadframe with a notched section, transfer-molding a thermosetting resin containing a light-reflecting substance, forming a resin-molded body on the leadframe, and cutting the resin-molded body and the leadframe along the notched section.

The Mary Elle Fashions complaint lists as accused products the Meridian CFL Plus and the LED Night Light, the Lowe’s complaint lists the Utilitech Pro 24-in Strip Light and LED Bulb, and the Feit Electric complaint lists the BPOM60/830/LED Bulb and the LG2560/CL/LEDG2 Bulb.

 

DeNovo Lighting, LLC v. Norman Lamps, Inc.

DeNovo sued Norman Lamps for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,729,809, entitled “Voltage regulating devices in LED lamps with multiple power sources” (‘809 Patent).

The ‘809 Patent is directed to an LED lamp having three voltage reducing devices, a voltage regulating circuit for providing linear current, the circuit not dependent on a voltage or electromagnetic induction power;,and at least two LEDs connected in series across the voltage regulating circuit.

The complaint, filed June 7, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that Norman’s Hybrid T8 lamps infringe the ‘809 Patent.

 

Philips Lighting North America Corporation et al. v. ikan Int’l, LLC

Philips has asserted more of its LED patents, this time against iKan in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

In a complaint filed May 31, 2016, Philips accused iKan of infringing the following patents:

U.S. Patent No. 6,692,136, entitled “LED/phosphor-LED hybrid lighting systems”

U.S. Patent No. 6,788,011, entitled “Multicolored LED lighting method and apparatus”

U.S. Patent No. 7,014,336, entitled “Systems and methods for generating and modulating illumination conditions”

U.S. Patent No. 7,180,252, entitled “Geometric panel lighting apparatus and methods”

U.S. Patent No. 7,255,457, entitled “Methods and apparatus for generating and modulating illumination conditions”

The accused products include various bi-color flood lights including the iLED 144, iLED 312-v2, IB-508-v2, StudioPRO 600, and Multi-K XL products.

 

Golight, Inc. v. Oracle Lighting, L.L.C.

Filed May 19, 2016 in the U.S.District Court for the District of Colorado, Golight’s lawsuit asserts U.S. Patent No. 9,255,687, entitled “LED system and housing for use with halogen light fixtures” (‘687 Patent).

The complaint alleges that Oracle’s 20W 4D Optic LED Square Spot and and 50 W LED portable search lights infringe the ‘687 Patent.

The ‘687 Patent is directed to an optical projection lens for mounting in front of LEDs.  The lens has a plurality of protrusions of varying thickness wherein the outermost edges of each protrusion has the thickest measurement, the center of each protrusion has the thinnest measurement, and the protrusions merge individual beams of light into a single beam of light.

 

LEDsOn et al. v. Qtran, Inc.

In an action for design patent infringement, LEDsON sued QTran,  on May 3, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

The patents-in-suit are:

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,683, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,684, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,681, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

The accused products are QTran’s IQA-RECD, IQA-45DN, and IQA-Flat LED-based lighting apparatus.

Smart Thermostats

FTC Sensors, LLC v. ecobee Inc.

In this action, filed in federal court in Marshall, Texas on June 1, 2016, FTC Sensors asserts three related sensor and transmission control patents.

According to the complaint, ecobee’s smart thermostat devices, including the Ecobee3 Thermostat, contain systems that infringe the three patents.

Each entitled “Sensor and transmission control circuit in adaptive interface package,” the patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,397,369, 7,696,870, and 8,421,621 (“Sensor Patents”).

The Sensor Patents are directed to a sensor system with a plurality of sensor modules. In a first mode, a linear voltage regulator provides a relatively small amount of power which allows a sensor module to output a signal responsive to detecting an environmental condition.

The interface module can switch the linear voltage regulator to a second mode in which the linear voltage regulator ramps up the amount of power provided to a detecting sensor module. The sensor module can then provide a level indicative of a concentration or intensity of the environmental condition. If the level surpasses a predetermined threshold, the sensor pack can output an alert signal to security server.

Smart Meters

TransData, Inc. v. CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC et al.

TransData has sued another utility, once again in federal court in Tyler, Texas on May 11, 2016.

The now-familiar (see previous posts, e.g., here and here) asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,181,294 (‘294 Patent)and 6,462,713 (‘713 Patent), each entitled “Antenna for Electric Meter and Manufacture Thereof.”  The third patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,903,699, entitled “Wireless Communication Device for Electric Meter and Method of Manufacture Thereof,” is a continuation-in-part of ‘713 and continuation of ‘294.

These patents describe an electric meter capable of bi-directional communication over a wireless network.  The meter is equipped with wireless communication circuitry and an antenna allowing the meter to wirelessly send usage data to a remote location and wirelessly, receive operational instructions from the remote location.

The complaint lists as accused products the Itron OpenWay Centron electric meter, the Landis+Gyr Focus AX electric meter, the General Electric I-210c electric meter, and the General Electric kV2c electric meter.

 

Water Meters

Badger Meter, Inc. v. Sensus USA Inc.

Sensus USA Inc. v. Badger Meter, Inc.

In a game of dueling lawsuits, Sensus filed a complaint on June 16, 2016 against Badger seeking a declaratory judgment of non-infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,539,827 (‘827 Patent), and Badger sued Sensus a week later alleging infringement of the ‘827 Patent.

Sensus sued in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California while Badger filed its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The Badger complaint alleges that Sensus’s Ally water meter infringes the ‘827 Patent, entitled “Water meter with integral flow restriction valve.

The ‘827 Patent is directed to a water meter and a flow control valve housed in a common pressure vessel, in which the flow control valve restricts flow through a metering chamber to less than the normal flow, while still permitting a flow sufficient for basic human needs, rather than completely interrupting supply of the utility.

Lighting Controls

SIPCO, LLC v. Acuity Brands, Inc. et al.

Filed June 23, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, the SIPCO complaint asserts six patents against Acuity.

SIPCO alleges that Acuity’s XPoint Wireless sensors and controllers infringe the patents.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,013,7327,697,4927,468,661, 6,437,692, 6,914,893, and 7,103,511, which relate to remote monitoring and control systems.

Windows of Opportunity: Eco-mark Strategies for Green Coatings

December 8th, 2015

window

Where most of us just gaze through windows at the world outside, SolarWindow Technologies, Inc. (SolarWindow) and DryWired both look at them and see opportunities for clean tech innovation.  And both are examples of successful navigation of the federal trademark process for protecting their eco-marks.

SolarWindow sees windows as platforms for renewable energy generation.  The Maryland-based company makes a see-through solar energy generating coating technology for windows, particularly for application to tall towers and skyscrapers.

previous post, written when SolarWindow was called New Energy Technologies, discussed the company’s trouble with its SOLARWINDOW trademark application.

The word mark was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (Board) as merely descriptive of the technology.  U.S. trademark law’s prohibits registration of marks that are “merely descriptive” of the goods or services.

The Board found that the definitions of the individual words “SOLAR” and “WINDOW” and the descriptive use of the combined term in the industry rendered the trademark merely descriptive.  The Board noted the effect of the mark on relevant consumers:

[I]t is clear that SOLARWINDOW would immediately inform these consumers that applicant’s goods are used to convert existing windows or create windows that are capable of collecting and generating solar energy.

But SolarWindow’s branding bounced back, with a strategy of incorporating distinctive design elements to its trademark.  The result: diminished descriptiveness problems.  The company received a Notice of Allowance in Application No. 85/673,542 for its design mark with window elements:

SolarWindow Design Mark 1

A Notice of Allowance was also issued in Application No. 86/014,061 for the company’s design mark with square and circle:

SolarWindow Design Mark 2

SolarWindow has also filed Application No. 86/615,006 for another updated design mark with block and lines and Application No. 86/615,014 for the block and line design alone.

SolarWindow Technologies Design Mark

 

 

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DryWired, based in Los Angeles, makes liquid nanotechnology for windows that shields against energy loss by reducing heat transfer through the coated windows.

Sold under the brand name Liquid NanoTint, the translucent coating uses a combination of solvent borne tin-oxide based nano-particles and an inorganic adhesive binder.

It’s essentially nanotech insulation, forming a 10-micron thick self-leveling coat that bonds directly to glass and protects the inside of the building from the sun’s UV rays and reduces infrared heat transfer to keep the indoor environment cooler in summer and prevent heat loss in the winter.

DryWired owns Application No. 86/396,246 No. for the trademark LIQUID NANOTINT for “antimony tin oxide based liquid thermal insulation nanocoatings for glass.”  The application easily passed through examination and will be registered shortly.

Should you feel the need to go window shopping for some green window dressing this holiday season, you’ll know who to call.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

May 20th, 2015

A number of new green patent complaints were filed in the last two months in the areas of energy storage, LED lighting, and smart grid (including lighting control).

 

Energy Storage

Power Regeneration, LLC v. Siemens Corporation et al.

A Texas company call Power Regeneration has accused Siemens of infringing a patent relating to energy storage systems.  Filed April 6, 2015 in federal court in Tyler, Texas, the complaint alleges that Siemens’ SITRAS energy storage systems infringe U.S. Patent No. 7,085,123 (‘123 Patent).

The ‘123 Patent is entitled “Power supply apparatus and power supply method” and directed to a power supply apparatus and method wherein the non-polar characteristics of the electrodes of a capacitor are used to improve the energy utilization efficiency of a battery through reciprocating switches of polarity connection between the battery and the capacitor.  The capacitor allows for reverse charging, and the apparatus delivers a stable power output.

LEDs

Koninklijke Philips N.V. et al. v. Troy-CSL Lighting, Inc.

On March 20, 2015, Philips sued Troy-CSL for infringement of seven patents relating to LEDs and LED lighting devices.  The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

The patents-in-suit are:

U.S. Patent No. 6,013,988, entitled “Circuit arrangement, and signalling light provided with the circuit arrangement”

U.S. Patent No. 6,094,014, entitled “Circuit arrangement, and signaling light provided with the circuit arrangement”

U.S. Patent No. 6,250,774, entitled “Luminaire”

U.S. Patent No. 6,561,690, entitled “Luminaire based on the light emission of light-emitting diodes”

U.S. Patent No. 7,038,399, entitled “Methods and apparatus for providing power to lighting devices”

U.S. Patent No. 7,262,559, entitled “LEDs driver”

U.S. Patent No. 7,325,138, entitled “Methods and apparatus for providing power to lighting devices”

The accused products are Creative Systems Lighting (CSL) and Troy branded interior and exterior LED lighting products.  Philips has asserted several of these patents before (see previous posts, e.g., here and here).

 

Smart Grid

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. Synapse Wireless, Inc.

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. Tantalus Systems, Inc.

On March 25, 2015, Endeavor MeshTech (a wholly-owned subsidiary of patent monetization firm Endeavor IP) filed two more patent infringement complaints.  One was filed against Synapse Wireless in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama (Endeavor v. Synapse), and the other against Tantalus Systems in the Eastern District of North Carolina (Endeavor v. Tantalus).

The complaints accuse each defendant of infringing three patents in a family – U.S. Patent Nos. 7,379,981,  8,700,749, and 8,855,019, 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.

The accused products are systems, modules, devices, and services under Tantalus’s TUNet brand and Synapse’s SNAP brand.

 

Sunrise Technologies, Inc. v. Cimcon Lighting, Inc.

Sunrise Technologies, Inc. v. Selc Ireland Ltd.

On April 8, 2015, a Massachusetts company called Sunrise Technologies filed suit against two competitors (Sunrise v. Cimcon; Sunrise v. Selc) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.  The complaint asserts U.S. Patent No. 7,825, 793, entitled “Remote monitoring and control system” (‘793 Patent).

The ‘793 Patent is directed to a communication system that communicates information between an end user device and a remote end user via a communication node mounted on the upper part of a utility pole.  The communication node is capable of communicating with a nearby user device using a low-power communication protocol such as the Zigbee protocol and transmits the communication to the end user via a neighborhood mesh network of nodes mounted on utility poles.

The accused products are Cimcon’s iSLC’s line of intelligent wireless controllers and Selc’s Wireless Central Monitoring Systems.

 

Intuitive Building Controls, Inc. v. Control4 Corporation

Intuitive Building Controls, Inc. v. Acuity Brands, Inc.

Intuitive Building Controls, Inc. v. AMX LLC

Intuitive Building Controls, Inc. v. Crestron Electronics, Inc.

Intuitive Building Controls, Inc. v. United Technologies Corporation et al.

Texas-baseed Intuitive Building Controls (IBC) fired off five complaints asserting infringement of one or more of three patents relating to lighting control systems.  The lawsuits were all filed in federal court in Marshall, Texas on April 14, 2015.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,118,230, entitled “Lighting control system including server for receiving and processing lighting control requests”(‘230 Patent), 6,160,359, entitled “Apparatus for communicating with a remote computer to control an assigned lighting load” (‘359 Patent), and 5,945,993, entitled “Pictograph-based method and apparatus for controlling a plurality of lighting loads” (‘993 Patent).

The complaints against Control4 (Intuitive v. Control4), AMX (Intuitive v. AMX), and Crestron (Intuitive v. Crestron) assert all three patents.  The complaints against Acuity Brands (Intuitive v. Acuity) and United Technologies (Intuitive v. United Technologies) list only the ‘230 Patent.

Trade Secrets Lit Updates: Sinovel Challenges Summons Service and Philips Computer Fraud Claim Fails

April 29th, 2015

There are updates on a couple of green tech trade secrets cases, each involving allegations of misappropriation by Chinese companies and their employees.

First, as discussed in a previous post, the ongoing litigation between American Superconductor (AMSC) and Sinovel includes a criminal indictment against the Chinese wind turbine maker, two of its employees, and a former AMSC employee.

The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit trade secret theft and criminal copyright infringement.  The technology involved is AMSC’s source code, software, equipment designs and technical drawings that relate to regulating the flow of electricity from wind turbines to the electricity grid

In a recent oral argument, Sinovel asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to reverse a lower court ruling and quash a summons, arguing it was improperly served on its U.S. subsidiary.  An article about the oral argument can be found here.

The second is a lawsuit brought by Koninklijke Philips and Philips Lumileds against Chinese competitor Elec-Tech International (ETI), several ETI subsidiaries, two corporate directors, and a former Lumileds employee named Dr. Gangyi Chen.  Philips alleged theft of trade secrets relating to high-energy LED lighting technology.

Elec-Tech moved to dismiss the complaint for a number of reasons, including an inadequately pleaded claim under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the only federal cause of action in the case.

In a recent decision, a federal court in San Jose, California dismissed Philips’ case, holding that the federal law claim under the CFAA could not be sustained.

The CFAA prohibits various computer crimes related to accessing computers without authorization in order to obtain information or data.  The problem for Philips was that Dr. Chen, who was alleged to have stolen the trade secret information, was authorized to access the Philips Lumileds network and did not exceed his authorized access while downloading the information prior to his resignation.

Specifically, the complaint was deficient because it lacked any allegation that someone without authorization accessed the confidential information:

By the Complaint’s own allegations, none of the CFAA Defendants accessed Lumileds’ information – Dr. Chen did, at a time when he was authorized to download this information.

While Dr. Chen may have misappropriated the information (a state law claim) and given it to the CFAA Defendants, the court held there is no “claim against those Defendants under the CFAA because they themselves did not hack Lumileds’ system.”

The court rejected Philips’ argument that Dr. Chen was an “agent” of the CFAA Defendants and they should be held liable based on their indirect, unauthorized access through Dr. Chen’s access, holding that the CFAA Defendants lack of access was fatal to the claim:

None of the CFAA Defendants entered or used Lumileds’ network.  At most, they encouraged Dr. Chen to do so, and stood to benefit from alleged misappropriation.  This action may give rise to a number of claims, but it does not support a theory of liability under the CFAA.

Expect this case to start up again in state court.

Pressing Matters: Inserting Indow Windows for Energy Efficiency

October 17th, 2014

Indow Windows (Indow) is a Portland, Oregon, company that has developed energy efficient window inserts.

Indow owns at least one U.S. Patent and a pending patent application covering its storm window technology.  U.S. Patent No. 8,272,178 (‘178 Patent) is entitled “Press-fit storm window” and directed to a storm window assembly comprising a transparent panel and tubes or gaskets for insertion into a window frame.

The tube (102) has a hollow interior and a channel groove that connects it to the panel (130).  The tube allows a pressure fit (350, 352, 354) into a window frame.

FIGS. 6(A)-6(C) show a molded tube corner piece which includes parallel plates (605, 615) with a gap (617).  Notch (643) facilitates better coverage and flexibility while find (641) provides improved adhesion and insulation.

FIG. 5 shows the corner piece being inserted into a window frame.

U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2014/0174006 is a related application (continuation-in-part of a continuation-in-part) owned by Indow, which adds some new material to the original disclosure of the ‘178 Patent.

According to the ‘178 Patent, the invention is intended to supplement, rather than replace, existing windows:

The windows are not designed to replace existing windows, but rather to supplement them by creating a tight seal between the interior space or exterior space and the existing window.

The invention accomplishes this by creating outward pressure around the edge of the panel:

In one embodiment of the inventive press-fit storm window, a transparent panel of acrylic glass, such as PLEXIGLAS, glass, or other clear rigid material is held in place by the spring action created by a continuous (or partial, conceivably) round gasket (or other spring-like gasket), that creates outward pressure around the entire exterior edge of the clear panel (or the top, left, and right sides). The panel is held securely in place through a combination of this outward pressure and friction.

A press release emailed to me by the company notes that its compression tube requires no mounting hardware or track system.  Significantly, the press release cites a U.S. Department of Energy study which found that installation of Indow Windows in a home in Seattle “led to a more than 20 percent reduction in heating, ventilating and air-conditioning use.”

The windows have gotten some recognition – according to the press release it has won a number of awards including the 2014 Top Product of the Year Award in the Environmental Leader Product & Project Awards.

Optimizing Green Patent Protection: A Study in Energy Storage Service

December 3rd, 2013

 

Stem is a Millbrae, California, startup that sells and leases its battery energy storage system, which is marketed as a way to reduce consumers’ energy bills.  Specifically, the company makes a lithium-ion battery connected to analytics software that determines the best times to draw energy from the battery, thereby reducing electricity demand charges.

As more demand side energy efficiency / smart grid technologies are being offered as services (with leasing of equipment rather than sale), I’ve been thinking about what this might mean for green patent drafting.  One of the things patent prosecutors consider when preparing a patent application is how to draft the claims to ensnare as many different potential infringers in the chain of commerce as possible.

On this score, it is important to keep in mind the acts that can constitute infringement, viz., making, using, selling, offering for sale, and importing into the United States.

In conventional scenarios, the competitors that could be infringers are typically manufacturers that make, offer for sale, and sell competing products as well as the end users of the products.  There could be distributors in the chain too, but these may or may not be viable infringement targets because of the patent exhaustion doctrine, which holds that an unrestricted authorized sale of a patented product “exhausts” the patent holder’s rights to control the use and sale of the product.

Taking Stem’s battery energy storage as a service as an example, the company owns at least one U.S. patent and one pending patent application relating to its technology.  Both are entitled “High speed feedback adjustment of power charge / discharge from an energy storage system” and are Publication No. 2013/0207591 (‘591 Application), which is a continuation of U.S. Patent No. 8,350,521 (‘521 Patent).

Generally speaking, the ‘521 Patent and ‘591 Application are directed to smart charge systems and power management methods in which power demand load data and variable generator power data are synchronized in time and used to provide optimal charge/discharge instructions to an energy storage unit.

The simplest infringement scenario, of course, would be competing manufacturers that make and sell products that infringe the ‘521 Patent by their manufacturing and sales activities; there also could be end users who infringe by their use.  But what about a competitor that simply leases infringing systems to end users? 

This hypothetical competitor has situated itself at a spot in the commercial chain where it may be able to avoid a charge of direct infringement because it is not making, selling, offering for sale, or importing an infringing product.  Depending on how the claims of the relevant patent are written, this competitor may not be using the product either.  It’s conceivable that the end users may be the only direct infringers in this scenario.

However, the patentee may have a case for inducing infringement against a competing storage as a service lessor if the patent claims are drafted carefully.  Section 271(b) of the patent statute provides that anyone who “actively induces” infringement of a patent is an infringer.  This means that someone who himself does not infringe, but induces another to do so (e.g., by providing a product with advertising or instructions about an infringing use), may be held liable for inducement, a form of secondary liability for patent infringement.

The ‘521 Patent (and the ‘591 Application) contains both system and method claims:  claims directed to a smart charge system and claims directed to a method of power monitoring and management.  Independent claim 1 of the ‘521 patent is directed to a smart charge system including a premise sensor for measuring premise power information, a variable generator sensor for measuring generator power information, an energy storage unit, and a control computer that receives synchronized information from the sensors and energy storage unit and provides charge/discharge instructions.

It’s possible that an end user of the smart charge system might, through use of the system, be a direct infringer of claim 1 of the ‘521 Patent and the company leasing the system could be liable for inducing the infringement of the end user.

A better candidate for inducement is independent claim 10 of the ‘521 Patent because this is a method claim:

10. A method of power monitoring and management comprising:

providing, at a controller, a desired limit load;

receiving, at the controller, power demand load information;

receiving, at the controller, variable generator power information; and

transmitting, from the controller to an energy storage unit, a charge/discharge instruction based on the desired limit load, the power demand load information, and the variable generator power information.

Even if the end user isn’t using the whole system with all the components recited in claim 1, or if a different system is being used, the storage as a service lessor could still be liable for inducing infringement if it directs or instructs the end user to carry out the method steps recited in independent claim 10.

Having method claims in a patent provides better protection and greater flexibility for enforcement by exposing more players and activities in the commercial chain to potential infringement liability.  As clean tech companies continue to explore new business models, careful green patent claim drafting will become more important to ensure optimal protection.

 

 

Does Use of a Certification Mark Constitute an Express Warranty?

November 26th, 2013

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Unlike ordinary trademarks, which indicate the commercial source of a product, certification marks communicate to the consumer that the products to which they are affixed meet certain manufacturing or quality standards.

One question that flows from this quality communication function is whether a manufacturer that affixes a certification mark to a product, by doing so, expressly warrants that the product meets the standards signaled by the certification mark.

This legal issue has begun to split the courts in the context of the Energy Star certification program for energy efficient appliances.  In the last year or so, an Ohio federal court dismissed a plaintiff’s express warranty claim based on affixation of the ENERGY STAR logo to a washing machine while a California federal court allowed a similar claim involving refrigerators to move forward.

The defendant was Whirlpool in both cases.  In the Ohio case, Savett v Whirlpool Corporation, the defendant moved to dismiss all of plaintiff’s claims, including a breach of express warranty.

The court granted Whirlpool’s motion on that claim because it found the ENERGY STAR logo does not in itself affirm any fact or promise:

[T]he Court finds that plaintiff fails to allege the existence of an express warranty because use of the ENERGY STAR logo is not an “affirmation of fact or promise” as alleged in this case . . . . the logo itself contains no assertion of fact or promise.  Unlike traditional express warranties where unambiguous promises or factual assertions are made, which are clearly understood on their own footing, any meaning conveyed by the logo requires independent knowledge.

The court also noted the lack of any precedent “in which a logo has . . . been held to constitute an express warranty.”

Contrast that with Dei Rossi v. Whirlpool Corporation, decided by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.  This case, discussed in a recent post, came out the other way.

The California court denied Whirlpool’s motion to dismiss the express warranty claim, holding that it was satisfied by affixation of the ENERGY STAR certification mark to the refrigerators.  This act by Whirlpool conferred a specific and express warranty because it communicated that the products met the Energy Star requirements:

Although Defendant alleges that this logo does not confer a specific and express warranty, Defendant does not provide any reason for affixing this logo to the product other than to signify that the product meets the Energy Star specifications.  Simply put, the Court cannot fathom any other reason for affixing the logo in such a manner. . . if Defendant’s intention was simply to signify that the product was energy efficient, it could have done so without affixing the Energy Star certification logo.  Thus, the Court finds that affixing this logo to the product satisfies the definition of an express warranty . . .

The court further found that the Plaintiffs adequately pleaded the exact terms of the warranty because the complaint noted that the Energy Star certification required the refrigerators to be at least 20% more efficient than minimum standard models.

Which is the better answer to this legal conundrum?  We may find some guidance by attempting to reconcile the conflicting results in these two cases.

It should be noted initially that we can’t reconcile these decisions based on any differences in the express warranty statutes in Ohio and California; the salient provision in each state is identical:

Any affirmation of fact or promise made by the seller to the buyer which relates to the goods and becomes part of the bargain creates an express warranty that the goods shall conform to the affirmation or promise.

One key factual difference is that the Ohio plaintiff apparently did not see the ENERGY STAR logo on the product or understand its meaning.  The Ohio court noted this in footnote 8 of its decision, stating it is notable that “plaintiff does not allege that he saw or understood any purported meaning of the logo.”

The California court did in fact distinguish its decision, at least in part, on this basis:

[U]nlike the plaintiff in Savett, in the instant case Plaintiffs have alleged that they independently understood the meaning of the logo and relied on it in deciding to purchase the products.

Ultimately, however, where a court comes out on this issue seems to depend on whether it attaches more importance to the motive of the manufacturer or the motive of the consumer.  That is, the California court found the manufacturer’s intention in affixing the ENERGY STAR logo to the product was to communicate that it meets the Energy Star specifications.

The Ohio court, by contrast, seemed swayed by the knowledge and purpose of the consumer, noting that “any meaning conveyed by the logo requires independent knowledge,” which the plaintiff in the suit notably lacked.

To be sure, there are a number of other causes of action consumers can bring against manufacturers that don’t satisfy green certification standards as advertised.  Nevertheless, I’m sure we’ll see more case law on this issue as green certification marks continue to proliferate and influence the purchasing decisions of environmentally conscious consumers.