Archive for the ‘Green Patents’ category

GreenShift Loses Across the Board in Ethanol Patent Case

December 14th, 2014

In a number of prior posts (e.g., here, here and here), I discussed the series of patent infringement suits brought by GreenShift and its New York subsidiary, GS Cleantech (GS), against a host of ethanol producers across the midwestern United States.

The lawsuits involve GS’s patented ethanol production processes, described and claimed in a host of patents, principally the ’858 Patent Family consisting of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,601,8588,008,516 and 8,283,484, each entitled “Method of processing ethanol byproducts and related subsystems,” and U.S. Patent No. 8,008,517, entitled “Method of recovering oil from thin stillage.”

The patents relate to methods of recovering oil from byproducts of ethanol production using the process of dry milling, which creates a waste stream comprised of byproducts called whole stillage.

GS has been on an aggressive patent enforcement campaign over the last several years, and multiple actions were consolidated in the Southern District of Indiana, where the ’858 Patent Family was construed and re-construed.

In a sweeping 233-page decision issued in October and made public last month, the court ruled on all of the pending motions for summary judgment brought by the original parties to the suit.

On plaintiff’s side, the motions brought by GS were for summary judgment of infringement of at least some claims of each patent in the ’858 Patent Family by each of fourteen different defendants.

On the other side, the defendants of course moved for summary judgment of non-infringement of the ’858 Patent Family.  The defendants also filed motions for summary judgment of invalidity of the ’858 Patent Family (with GS cross-moving for summary judgment that the patents are valid).

Finally, GS alleged a subset of six defendants infringe U.S. Patent 8,168,037, entitled “Method and systems for enhancing oil recovery from ethanol production byproducts” (’037 Patent).  The ’037 Patent was also the subject of competing motions by both sides for summary judgment of infringement and non-infringement and/or invalidity.

The court made several rulings on infringement, all for defendants.  Here are a couple of highlights:

The court found the defendants entitled to summary judgment of non-infringement of a number of claims of the ’858 Patent Family because the claims require drying the concentrate, which the court construed to mean drying the reduced oil syrup leaving the oil recovery process without mixing it with anything else first.  The defendants’s processes mix the reduced oil thin stillage concentrate before drying the mixture.

A number of defendants’ motions for summary judgment of non-infringement of several claims of the ’516 Patent and ’484 Patent were granted because the claims require that the reduced-oil syrup be “substantially free of oil” and defendants do not remove most of the oil from the incoming stream.

But the big news is the court held three of the four patents (’858, ’516 and ’517) in the ’858 Patent Family invalid because GS made a commercial offer to sell the technology more than a year before the August 17, 2004 filing date of the initial provisional patent application that led to the other applications in the family.

Under the patent law provisions in effect at that time, a sale of the invention or offer to sell the invention more than one year before filing a patent application directed to the invention invalidates a patent issuing on that application, so long as the invention was reduced to practice at the time of the offer.

The offer was in the form of a July 31, 2003 letter to a prospective customer which the court found was “the culmination of a commercial offer for sale”:

[T]he major elements of a contract for the sale of a system that could perform the the patented method are contained in the letter:  all items necessary to recover oil and the price.

All four patents of the ’858 Patent Family were also held invalid as obvious over a prior Prevost patent in view of the common practice of the ethanol industry at the time:

Prevost discloses centrifugation of concentrated thin stillage to recover oil.  The only elements of the ’858 patent family missing from Prevost’s explicit teachings are specific pH, moisture content and temperature range requirements that are indisputably encompassed by the standard operating conditions of a dry mill ethanol plant and the heating element recited in some of the claims.

If that weren’t enough, the court held the later-filed ’037 Patent invalid as obvious in view of the ’858 Patent and other prior art references.

At the end of the day, all of GS’s motions for summary judgment of infringement were denied, nearly all of its motions for summary judgment of validity of its patents were denied, none of the defendants was found to infringe GS’s patents, and the ’858 Patent Family was found to be invalid on multiple grounds.

CEPGI Report Shows Record Quarter for Green Patents and Solar Patents in Q2 2014

December 5th, 2014

The Clean Energy Patent Growth Index (CEPGI) recently released its Second Quarter 2014 Results.  Researched and published by the Heslin Rothenberg law firm, CEPGI is a quarterly report on clean energy patents issued in the United States.

The big news is that the 940 green patents granted in the second quarter of 2014 is the highest total for any quarter since CEPGI began tracking green patent trends in 2002.  This is a jump of 250 from the first quarter and 200 more than Q2 last year.

The largest number of green patents was in solar technology, with 306 solar patents, up 55 from the first quarter.  This is an all-time high for solar patent grants and is part of a recent and sustained dominance, according to the report:

Solar patents were at a new high and again led the other technology sectors in the second quarter for the fifth quarter in a row…

Fuel cell patents were in second place at 232, a jump of 70 patents over the first quarter.  Wind patents were up 43 to 166, to take third place, while hybrid/electric vehicle patents were in fourth place with 142.  Next was biofuel/biomass patents, which reached a new high of 71, tidal patents (16), and geothermal patents (5).

The top green patentee for the second quarter of 2014 was Toyota, which had 33 patents granted, divided between fuel cells and hybrid/electric vehicles.  Toyota took the crown from the leader of the prior quarter, General Motors, which was in second place with 30 granted green patents, most of which were fuel cell patents.

Vestas and Samsung tied for third place, each with 26 patents.  All 26 Vestas patents were, unsurprisingly, in wind technology, and Samsung had 14 fuel cell patents, 11 solar patents, and one biofuel/biomass patent.  Honda, Hyundai, and Ford took the next three spots, followed by GE, Mitsubishi, and Panasonic.

CEPGI also breaks out its data by jurisdiction, looking at the countries and individual U.S. states of green patentees.  Japan was the Q2 leader with 183 green patents granted.  California took second place with 98 patents, followed by Germany  with 92, and Korea with 90.  Michigan (56), Taiwan (38), New York (31), Denmark (30), France (24), and Texas (24) rounded out the top ten.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

November 19th, 2014

Several new green patent lawsuits were filed in the last couple of months in the areas of LEDs, smart grid technologies, concentrated solar power, solar inverters, green dry cleaning solvents, and water treatment.

 

LEDs

Cree, Inc. v. Harvatek Corporation et al.

North Carolina LED maker Cree filed a couple of patent infringement suits in September and October.  In the first, Cree sued Harvatek for alleged infringement of six patents relating to white light LED technology.  The complaint was filed September 15, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

Three of the asserted patents are of a first patent family and share the same title.  Another two are part of a second family and share a title.  The patents-in-suit are as follows:

U.S. Patent No. 6,600,175, entitled “Solid state white light emitter and display using same”

U.S. Patent No. 7,943,945, entitled “Solid state white light emitter and display using same”

U.S. Patent No. 8,659,034, entitled “Solid state white light emitter and display using same” (’034 Patent)

U.S. Patent No. 7,910,938, entitled “Encapsulant profile for light emitting diodes” (’938 Patent)

U.S. Patent No. 8,766,298, entitled “Encapsulant profile for light emitting diodes” (’298 Patent)

U.S. Patent No. 8,362,605, entitled “Apparatus and method for use in mounting electronic elements”

The complaint alleges that a number of Harvatek’s white LED products infringe the patents.

Cree, Inc. v. Honeywell International Inc.

The second suit accuses Honeywell of infringing the ’034, ’938, and ’298 Patents as well as U.S. Patent No. 8,860,058, entitled “Solid state white light emitter and display using same.”

Filed in the Western District of Wisconsin on October 28, 2014, the complaint alleges that Honeywell’s Automation and Control Systems and Aerospace business units are selling infringing products using Cree’s patent white LED technology for backlighting.

The accused products include liquid crystal display devices in Honeywell’s Aviation Lighting and Cockpit Displays, Environment & Combustion Controls, Scanning and Mobility devices, and Measurement and Control Systems as well as certain programmable thermostat products.

Smart Grid

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. EnergyHub, Inc.

On October 14, 2014, Endeavor MeshTech (a wholly-owned subsidiary of patent monetization firm Endeavor IP) filed a patent infringement complaint against Brooklyn-based EnergyHub in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The complaint (Endeavor complaint part_1Endeavor complaint part_2) accuses EnergyHub 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 vnodes and VGATES.

According to the complaint, EnergyHub’s self-configuring wireless network marketed and sold under the name of its Mercury platform infringe the patents.

 

Concentrated Solar Power

Schott Solar CSP GmbH v. SkyFuel, Inc. et al.

Schott filed suit against SkyFuel and Weihai Golden Solar October 23, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.  The complaint alleges infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,013,887 (’887 Patent) relating to solar absorption receivers used in certain concentrated solar power (CSP) applications.

Entitled “Absorber pipe for solar heating applications,” the ’887 Patent is directed to an absorber pipe having a central metal pipe, a sleeve tube, folding bellows, and an expansion compensation device that connects the metal pipe and sleeve tube so that they can slide relative to each other.

According to the complaint, the defendants sell infringing receivers and/or build and install CSP plants incorporating infringing receivers.

 

Solar Inverters

Enphase Energy, Inc. v. SolarBridge Technologies, Inc.

Inverter maker Enphase Energy sued SolarBridge, alleging infringement of three patents relating to solar inverter technology.  The complaint was filed October 10, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,768,155 and 8,035,257, both entitled “Method and apparatus for improved burst mode during power conversion” and U.S. Patent No. 7,986,122, entitled “Method and apparatus for power conversion with maximum power point tracking and burst mode capability.”

The patents relate to systems and methods for converting DC power generated by solar panels to AC power for the electric grid and includes methodology for storing energy and drawing energy during burst periods and controlling burst modes to improve efficiency in low sunlight conditions.

The accused products are SolarBridge’s Pantheon microinverter and TrueAC module.

Green Dry Cleaning Solvents

GreenEarth Cleaning, L.L.C. v. Glyndon Laundry, Inc. d/b/a Glyndon Lord Baltimore Cleaners

Filed September 22, 2014 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, GreenEarth’s complaint accuses Glyndon of, among other things, patent and trademark infringement.

GreenEarth alleges that Glyndon is infringing its “base” patent – U.S. Patent No. 5,942,007 (’007 Patent) – as well as nine other patents which are “variations” of the ’007 Patent.  The ’007 Patent is entitled “Dry cleaning method and solvent” and directed to methods of dry cleaning clothes using a cleaning fluid including a cyclic siloxane composition.

GreenEarth also accuses Glyndon of infringing its trademarks including its leaf and water droplet logo:

According to the complaint, GreenEarth licensed its trademarks and patented processes to Glyndon, but Glyndon stopped paying the requisite fees after August 2013 and continued to use the licensed intellectual property.

Water Treatment

Deerpoint Group, Inc. v. Acqua Concepts, Inc. (DBA Ag Water Chemical of California)

Deerpoint, a provider of water treatment solutions for the agriculture industry, sued Acqua and two former Deerpoint employees in federal court in Fresno, California.

Filed September 25, 2014, the complaint accuses Acqua of infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 6,238,573 (’573 Patent) and 7,638,064 (’064 Patent) and alleges that its former employees misappropriated trade secrets including confidential products and services, client lists, and pricing information.

The ’573 Patent is entitled “Water treatment” and directed to a process for producing chlorine for water treatment including blending calcium hypochlorite and water  to form a saturated solution of calcium hypochlorite and a sink of calcium hypochlorite and feeding chlorinated water to a water supply.

The ’064 Patent is verbosely titled “Continuously feeding chlorine to the irrigation system, monitoring an outer field point to determine whether at least a detectable level of residual chlorine is seen at that point, whereby chlorination disinfection system-wide is achieved.”

GE Settles Signage LED Patent Suit; Offers Patents for License

November 12th, 2014

One of the major green patent lawsuits I’ve been following in this space – GE Lighting v. Agilight – has settled.  GE announced the settlement in a recent press release.

The suit involved four GE LED patents, some relating to use of LED modules for signage applications:  U.S. Patent Nos. 7,160,140 (’140 Patent) and 7,832,896 (’896 Patent), entitled “LED String Light Engine,” U.S. Patent No. 7,520,771 entitled “LED String Light Engine and Devices that are Illuminated by the String Light Engine” (’771 Patent), and U.S. Patent No. 7,633,055 entitled “Sealed Light Emitting Diode Assemblies Including Annular Gaskets and Method of Making Same” (’055 Patent).

GE filed the suit against AgiLight back in February 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.  After the district court issued a claim construction ruling favorable to AgiLight, GE joined in a stipulation that two of the ’140 and ’771 Patents were not infringed to expedite appeal of the claim construction decision.

Shortly thereafter, the district court granted AgiLight’s motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims of the ’055 Patent) and the ’896 Patent.

The terms of the settlement are confidential, but according to the press release the litigation was resolved “to the parties’ mutual satisfaction.”

If the terms included AgiLight taking a license to the patents, it was non-exclusive:  GE Lighting’s General Manager – Global Product Management Jerry Duffy said the company is “offering non-exclusive licenses under these patents to interested parties.”

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.

Guest Post: Pace of Wind Innovation Slows, But is Set to Skyrocket Again

September 17th, 2014

Totaro & Associates, a Houston, TX based research and consulting firm has released a new research report on the pace of wind turbine technology innovation and proliferation.

IP ownership rankings show General Electric still leading with over 1,400 patent families, and the ability to now leverage the Alstom wind portfolio, which puts the combined total above 1,550.  Siemens has overtaken Vestas for #2 as predicted in last year’s report, and Mitsubishi drops from #4 to #5.

Previously outside the top 10, Guodian United Power has rocketed up into the #4 spot due to more patent filings in 2012 than any other company, although most filings were exclusive to China.

The top 10 wind turbine manufacturers control more than 56% of all wind patent filings, as well as over 77% of the patents which are broadly applicable to the entire industry or potentially infringed.  This strongly suggests the concentration of innovation in wind lies with those who can afford it.

The pace of patent filings has finally dropped for the first time after an average CAGR of 47% during the 2007 – 2011 time-frame.  The report indicates only a 7% growth in the number of global patent filings in wind in 2012 vs. 2011 and a slight decline for 2013 is expected as the recent market downturn has put a damper on research and development (R&D) spending and expenditure on IP protection.

Market conditions indicate that the pace is set to increase again in the coming years due to an increased commitment of expenditure on R&D.  Some companies are spending up to 6% of their revenue on R&D, which is almost double the spend rate in 2010 after the financial crisis.  Filings are expected to return to the levels seen in 2011 by 2015/16, although the average CAGR is expected to be a more modest 5 – 10%.

The research also shows that the US has the greatest number of patent filings on wind turbine technology, and companies have collectively spent over $162M on IP protection with over 8,365 individual patent filings there.  Europe is second at $138M with over 6,100 filings and China third at $61M with over 5,000 filings.  China is poised to overtake Europe for #2 within the next 12 months.

Globally, the entire wind industry has spent $522M to date on patent protection.  Expenditure on IP protection by wind companies is expected to escalate, with $1B to be spent by 2019 and $2B by 2026.

The past year has seen the penetration of some non-practicing entities (NPEs), more commonly referred to as ‘patent trolls,’ into the wind market.  These companies acquire orphaned intellectual property assets or develop their own patent portfolios specifically for the purpose of monetizing against the entrenched players in the industry.

With so many patents available for acquisition in the past 18 months, it is no surprise that these NPEs are seeing an opportunity to take advantage of market timing and attempt to drive up costs for operating companies in wind.

The full report is available from Totaro & Associates www.totaro-associates.com.

 

*Philip Totaro is the Principal at Totaro & Associates, a consulting firm focused on innovation strategy, competitive intelligence, product development and patent search.  To find out more, or get in touch please visit www.totaro-associates.com.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

September 11th, 2014

As with many things, July and August were slow months for green patent litigation.  However, a handful of green patent complaints were filed in the last two months in the areas of solar power, green chemicals, smart meters, and, of course, LEDs.

 

Solar Power

Conlin v. Solarcraft, Inc.

Kevin L. Conlin sued Solarcraft on July 2, 2014 in federal court in Houston, Texas.  The complaint alleges that several patents relating to portable solar power units are invalid or unenforceable due to inequitable conduct.  Conlin further alleges that he should have been named as an inventor on the patents.

The patents-in-suit are:

U.S. Patent No. 7,832,253, entitled “Portable weather resistant gas chromatograph system”

U.S. Patent No. 7,843,163, entitled “Portable weather resistant enclosure”

U.S. Patent No. 7,750,502, entitled “Portable weather resistant flow meter system”

U.S. Patent No. 7,795,837, entitled “Portable solar power supply trailer with a security containment area and multiple power interfaces”

U.S. Patent No. 7,880,333, entitled “Method for weather resistant portable flow metering”

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. v. SunEdison, Inc.

A previous post discussed du Pont’s solar paste patent litigation with Heraeus and another post detailed the parties’ subsequent legal wrangling over a press release and customer letters du Pont wrote about the litigation.

Armed with a new solar paste patent, du Pont has sued SunEdison.  Filed August 21, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, Du Pont’s complaint accuses SunEdison of infringing U.S. Patent No. 8,497,420 (’420 Patent).

The ’420 Patent is entitled “Thick-film pastes containing lead- and tellurium-oxides, and their use in the manufacture of semiconductor devices” an directed to a thick-film paste for printing the front-side of a solar cell having one or more insulating layers.  The thick-film paste comprises an electrically conductive metal and a lead-tellurium-oxide dispersed in an organic medium.

Green Chemicals

Koch Agronomic Services, LLC v. Eco Agro Resources, LLC

In this lawsuit over a treatment agent for fertilizer, Koch accuses Eco Agro of infringing U.S. Patent No. 5,698,003 (’003 Patent).  The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina on August 13, 2014.

The ’003 Patent is entitled “Formulation for fertilizer additive concentrate” and directed to solvent systems for the formulation of certain urease inhibitors. These formulations enable the preparation of stable concentrated solutions for storage, transportation, and impregnation onto solid urea fertilizers and incorporation into liquid urea fertilizers.

According to the complaint, Eco Agro’s N-YIELD product, an environmentally-friendly urease inhibitor used to treat urea-based fertilizers, infringes the ’003 Patent.

Smart Meters

Sensor-Tech Innovations LLC v. CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC

On July 16, 2014 Sensor-Tech sued CenterPoint for patent infringement in federal court in Marshall, Texas.  According to the complaint, CenterPoint’s Advanced Metering System infringes U.S. Patent No. 6,505,086 (’086 Patent).

Entitled “XML sensor system,” the ’086 Patent is directed to a sensor communication system comprising an array of sensors adapted to transmit sensor data in XML format.

LEDs

Koninklijke Philips N.V.  et al. v. JST Performance, Inc.

Philips has asserted eleven LED patents against JST in an infringement action filed July 23, 2014 in federal court in Orlando, Florida.

According to the complaint, the patents are infringed by JST products in the A-Series, D-Series, E-Series, SR-Series, SR-M, SR-Q, RDS Series, Q-Series, and Wake Flame product lines, and LED products used in LED Lighting Devices such as dome lights, deck lights, driving lights, fog lights, light bars, spotlights, floodlights, diffused lights, and marine lighting products.

The asserted patents are:

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. 6,586,890, entitled “LED driver circuit with PWM output”

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. 6,806,659, entitled “Multicolored LED lighting method and apparatus”

U.S. Patent No. 6,967,448, entitled “Methods and apparatus for controlling illumination”

U.S. Patent No. 7,030,572, entitled “Lighting arrangement”

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

U.S. Patent No. 7,348,604, entitled “Light-emitting module”

U.S. Patent No. 7,566,155, entitled “LED light system”

 

Seoul Semiconductor Co. v. Curtis International Ltd.

Filed July 22, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Seoul’s 7-patent complaint accuses Curtis’s LED televisions sold under the Proscan brand name of infringement.

The following patents are listed in the complaint:

U.S. Patent No. 8,314,440, entitled “Light emitting diode chip and method of fabricating the same”

U.S. Patent No. 7,964,943, entitled “Light emitting device”

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

U.S. Patent No. 7,572,653, entitled “Method of fabricating light emitting diode”

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

U.S. Patent No. 6,473,554, entitled “Lighting apparatus having low profile”

U.S. Patent No. 6,007,209, entitled “Light source for backlighting”

More Green Patent PR: Phytonix, Proterro and Others Tout Patents and Licenses

August 4th, 2014

I’ve written before (e.g., here and here) about tech firms’ penchant for patent PR.  Here are several recent contributions to the genre.

 

Phytonix Corporation, based in North Carolina, touts its new U.S. patent for biobutanol production technology in this press release.  The patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,735,651, entitled “Designer organisms for photobiological butanol production from carbon dioxide and water” (’651 Patent).

The ’651 Patent is directed to a biosafety-guarded photobiological butanol production technology based on designer transgenic plants, designer algae, designer blue-green algae (cyanobacteria and oxychlorobacteria), or designer plant cells.

But the company’s IP portfolio doesn’t end here; Phytonix wants you to know that it also has IP relating to its biosafety guarded technology that “uses redundant mechanisms to prevent the proliferation of our organisms outside of a chemicals & biofuels productions environment.”

Query whether Phytonix directly competes with  biobutanol industry leaders Butamax and Gevo, who have been embroiled in contentious patent litigation.

 

Meanwhile, Ion Power Group (IPG) has been busy patenting not only in the U.S. but also in Canada, China, Japan and Russia.  The energy R&D company’s IP law firm announced that IPG’s “ground-breaking” ion power plant technology is the subject of “international patents.”

The press release does not contain the patent numbers, but specific patent info can be found on the company’s patents page.

 

New Jersey-based Proterro recently announced the grant of U.S. Patent No. 8,728,783, succinctly titled “Photobioreactor” (’783 Patent).

The ’783 Patent is directed to a photobioreactor for cultivating photosynthetic microorganisms comprising a non-gelatinous, solid cultivation support suitable for providing nutrients and moisture to photosynthetic microorganisms and a physical barrier covering at least a portion of the surface of the cultivation support.

The news was picked up by Biofuels Digest.  The press release also mentions a new Mexican patent and a prior U.S. patent covering the company’s sucrose-producing cyanobacteria.

 

Of course, not all green patent PR pertains to patent grants.  Some relates to tech transfer.  In this vein, Innovative Environmental Technologies (IET) recently announces an exclusive licensing agreement with Provectus Environmental Products.

IET said the deal involves seven patents, including U.S. Patent No. 7,828,974, with the positively prolix title “The induction of reducing conditions and stimulating anaerobic process through the addition of dried micro-blue green algae and seaweed to accomplish accelerated dechlorinization of soil and groundwater contaminated with chlorinated solvents and heavy metals” and U.S. Patent No. 8,147,694, entitled “Method for the treatment of ground water and soils using mixtures of seaweed and kelp.”

The press release can be found here.

By the way, this breakdown of green patent PR subject matter – the majority being directed to patent prosecution events – is consistent with my findings on patent PR in the clean tech industry discussed here.

Six Years On, IP Impact on Green Tech Transfer Remains a Mystery

July 30th, 2014

It’s been quite a while since I’ve addressed green patents in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other international efforts to develop climate change policy.

A guest post by Prof. Matthew Rimmer discussed the UNFCCC Doha meeting in December 2012, and I commented on the 2010 Cancun climate change agreement.

Summarizing where we left off, most of the middle-income countries (AKA “developing” countries) together with the least developed countries (collectively,  ”G77 + China”) have taken the position that IP protections act as a barrier to development and transfer of green technologies in and to their domestic markets.

The “rich-world” countries, by contrast, advocate strong intellectual property rights and believe they facilitate green tech development, transfer, and deployment.

What is the reality?  We don’t know.

2008 report by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) equivocally concluded that “IP is potentially both an incentive and an obstacle to the transfer of technology.”  The report also noted that “no comprehensive study has been conducted on the impact of IP rights” in green technologies.

Half a decade later, the international community plugs on, and little has changed.

Three Working Groups of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change each generated a report this year that addresses various aspects of climate change.  Working Group II’s report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability and Working Group III’s report on Mitigation of Climate Change each addresses IP issues, though the contribution to the debate is small both in volume and significance.

The report of Working Group II skates over familiar ground, stating that in many cases “patents and other intellectual property protection constrain technology transfer” but noting the opposing view that “strong IP protection in receiving countries is facilitating technology transfer from advanced countries…”  The report does say the evidence suggests that middle-income countries are benefiting from exports, foreign direct investment, and technology licensing associated with IP protection.

Working Group III’s report is similar in substance and tone, observing that IP protection can provide incentives for innovation but “also works to slow the diffusion of new technologies, because it raises their cost and potentially limits their availability.”  Elaborating on the favorable evidence on tech transfer to middle-income countries, the report says IP protection “may be necessary to limit the risk for foreign firms that transfer of their technology will lead to imitation and resulting profit erosion.”

But like the ICTSD report from six years ago, the 2014 report of Working Group III still finds insufficient data to conclusively resolve this debate:

In summary, there is inadequate evidence in the literature regarding the impact of IP policy on transfer of GHG-mitigating technologies to draw robust conclusions.

Where is the comprehensive research we need on the true impact of IP rights on green technology development and diffusion?

I’d do it if someone would fund it…

Developing Details on Our Tesla Patents

July 17th, 2014

In a prior post, I discussed the Tesla-Patent Commons.  Further to that piece and the other media attention around Elon Musk’s announcement, there have been a couple of notable follow-on lists and analyses of the Tesla patents, which now belong to all of us.

First, Envision IP published this infographic, which provides a nice breakdown of the Tesla patent portfolio.  According to their count (as of June 12, 2014), Tesla had 172 issued U.S. patents and 123 published U.S. applications.

By far the largest group is batteries & charging technology, which makes up 120 patents and 71 applications.  Motor & drive controls is next with 20 patents and 15 applications, followed by 10 patents and 4 applications directed to frame & chassis inventions.  Bringing up the rear are doors & latches, HVAC tech, and sunroofs.

Cleantechnica offers a footnote of sorts in a recent piece noting that 25 Tesla patents and applications relate to battery fire & hazard risk reduction technologies.   An example of an issued patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,445,126, entitled “Hazard mitigation within a battery pack using metal-air cells.”

I figure it’s good for us to know more details about these patents.  After all, they belong to us.