Archive for the ‘Green Patents’ category

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

November 19th, 2015

Several new green patent complaints were filed in September and October in the areas of LEDs, smart grid, smart meters and wastewater handling.


Smart Grid

JSDQ Mesh Technologies LLC v. Silver Springs, Inc. and Pepco Holdings, Inc.

JSDQ filed a patent infringement lawsuit on September 10, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

This complaint accuses Silver Springs and Pepco of infringing three U.S. Patents Nos. 7,286,828 entitled “Method of Call Routing and Connection,” RE43,675 entitled “Wireless Radio Routing System,” and RE44,607 entitled, “Wireless Mesh Routing Method.”

The technology involved in the suit includes Silver Springs’ Smart Grid Mesh Network solutions, which the complaint alleges includes a wireless routing system and an Aerohive routing system used in conjunction with directional radio signals.

The complaint alleges Pepco is infringing the patents through its use of Silver Springs’ Smart Grid Mesh Network and associated products and services.


Smart Meters

 Transdata, Inc. v. Landis+Gyr, Inc. and Landis+Gyr Technology, Inc.

Transdata, Inc. v. Itron, Inc.

Transdata, Inc. v. General Electric Company and GE Energy Management Services, Inc.

On September 11, 2015, TransData filed three separate complaints in federal court in Tyler, Texas.

Each of the three complaints corresponds to a different defendant(s) (see the complaints here, here, and here), but each complaint asserts the same three patents.  These complaints follow a long list of consolidated “smart meter” cases, and in each complaint, Transdata notes that the defendant(s) indemnified and/or defended other defendant(s) in the earlier consolidated cases.

Two of the asserted patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 6,181,294 (‘294 Patent)and 6,462,713 (‘713 Patent) are related and 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.

For a more detailed discussion of the patented meter technology and discussion of earlier case, see our previous post here.

Numerous industrial and residential electric meters made by the defendants are at issue in these cases.

The Landis+Gyr products include residential meters containing the Landis+Gyr Gridstream RF Mesh Residential Endpoint; industrial and commercial meters containing Landis+Gyr Gridstream RF Mesh Commercial  and Industrial Endpoint; and meters with the AMI communication modules and antenna.

The Itron and General Electric meters include various residential and industrial meters equipped with under-the-glass wireless communication modules and meters with the AMI communication modules and antenna.



Global Tech LED, LLC. V. Every Watt Matters, LLC and DRK Enterprises, Inc.

Global Tech LED, LLC V. Hilumnz International Corp., Hilumnz, LLC and Hilumnz USA, LLC

Global Tech LED filed a complaint against Every Watt Matters and DRK (“EWM”) on September 14, 2015 and a complaint against Hilumnz on September 15, 2015.

Both complaints were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida and allege the defendant(s) infringed U.S. Patent No. 9,091,424, entitled “LED Light Bulb.”

The patent pertains to an LED device that can replace or retrofit a light bulb in an electrical socket.  The LED device has a screw connector for screwing into a light bulb socket.  A bracket connects the screw portion to the housing, which holds one or more LEDs.  The housing can rotate to direct the light from the LED and contains an electrically powered cooling fan to dissipate heat generated by LED.

Both complaints allege EWM and Hilumnz offer for sale infringing LED lamp products.  The Hilumnz complaint also alleges that Hilumnz offers for sale various Retrofit Kits.


Wastewater Handling

Liberty Pumps Inc. v. Franklin Electric Co., Inc.

On October 23, 2015, Liberty Pumps Inc. (“Liberty”) filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.  The complaint alleges Franklin Electric Co. Inc. (Franklin) is infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 8,523,532 (‘532 Patent) and 8,888,465 (‘465 Patent) entitled, “Sewage Handling System, Cover and Controls.”

The ‘532 and ‘465 Patents describe a basin/pump assembly for moving liquids such as sewage.  If a bathroom is lower than a household sewer effluent pipe, this assembly would pump the bathroom wastewater to the level of sewer effluent pipe.

The assembly has a basin with a bottom, sides and a hanging feature formed into the basin.  The hanging feature has a hanging portion with a level switch.  A pump is disposed in the basin.  Also, the basin may have a cover assembly that can be fastened to the open top of the basin.

The accused products include Franklin’s LittleGIANT Pit+Plus Sewage Basin.


Jayne Saydah is a registered patent attorney with experience prosecuting patent applications for a broad range of technologies.  She has a B.S. in Environmental Engineering and an interest in protecting the intellectual property rights of any environmentally conscience inventions and businesses.

Supremes’ Alice Ruling Drowns Water Treatment Patent

November 10th, 2015

A Green Patent Complaint Update post reported on the patent infringement suit between Neochloris and Emerson Process Management Power & Water Solutions.  Citgo was also named as a defendant.

In the lawsuit, Neochloris accused Emerson and Citgo of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,845,336 (‘336 Patent).

The ‘336 Patent is entitled “Water treatment monitoring system” and directed to a monitoring system to receive data from water sensors, analyze water quality conditions inputted by the sensors and predict effluent water quality and process upsets.  The monitoring system includes an artificial neural network module to determine solutions to actual and potential water quality and process upsets.

The defendants jointly moved for summary judgment that the ‘336 Patent is invalid because it covers non-patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  Section 101 of U.S. patent law delineates the broad categories of subject matter deemed eligible for patent protection.

These comprise “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof…”

Generally excluded from eligibility are laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas.  Patentable subject matter has been in flux for the last several years and recent case law has rendered previously eligible areas such as business methods and software very difficult to patent.

In a recent decision, Judge Edmond E. Chang of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted the summary judgment motion, ruling that the ‘336 Patent protects an unpatentable abstract idea.

The court’s decision began with a summary of the asserted claims of the ‘336 Patent, stating that they describe a method for:

  1. collecting data at a water treatment plant;
  2. sending the data over an internet connection to a computer;
  3. monitoring and analyzing the data with an ordinary computer and software; and
  4. alerting the facility of any abnormalities.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice v. CLS Bank decision laid out the current analysis for determining patentable subject matter under Section 101.  The first question is whether the claims are “directed to a patent ineligible concept” on their face.  If so, the second question is whether the claims nonetheless contain an “inventive concept” that can make the concept a patent eligible invention.

Judge Chang concluded that the claims of the ‘336 Patent cover an abstract idea:

[A]t bottom, the claims cover the general process of observing, analyzing, monitoring, and alerting that can be done entirely by the human mind and by using pen and paper….the Federal Circuit has determined that collecting and processing data is an abstract idea.

The court went on to find that the claims do not contain any inventive concept.  Neochloris argued that the claims have three patent-eligible inventive features:  the use of computers and software, the ability to predict future failure events, and the ability to reduce human error.

However, the court found all of these functions to be conventional and that the claims of the ‘336 Patent merely recite basic computer functions:

[T]he ‘336 patent employs any “monitoring computer” and any “software” to perform basic computer functions.  The computer and software simply make routine calculations to monitor and analyze water data.  The claims are not limited to any particular software or hardware, and this generic technology has no special capabilities that “improve the functioning of the computer itself” or “effect an improvement in any other technology or technical field.”  Because the addition of a computer and software in the ‘336 patent “does no more than require a generic computer to perform generic computer functions,” this generic technology does not save the ‘336 patent.

Similarly, the ability of the patented system to predict future failure events, even if it is better than could be done by a human operator, is not inventive:

There is no inventive concept when a computer just replicates what a person can do, only more quickly and accurately.

Finally, the court found that reducing human error “only describes the generic ability of a computer to work more accurately and does not make the claim inventive.”

With software so integral to so many environmental and other green technologies, this surely is not the last we’ll see of Alice impacting green patents.

Remembering Innovator Stanley Klein

November 4th, 2015

The late Dr. Stanley Klein was a well-known engineer and innovator in a number of fields, including utilities, smart grid, and power systems design and development.

Dr. Klein is the named inventor on U.S. Patent No. 8,731,732, entitled “Methods and system to manage variability in production of renewable energy” (‘732 Patent).  Unfortunately, Dr. Klein passed away while the ‘732 Patent was pending.

The ‘732 Patent is directed to systems and methods of controlling loads coupled to an electric grid to manage variability in production of renewable energy.

The loads may be controlled in response to an indication of balance between available power and loads, in response to new loads, or grid disconnections, and may be controlled repeatedly over time to adjust a sum load in response to changes in balance between available power and loads, new loads, and grid disconnections.

I recently spoke with Dr. Klein’s daughter and son-in-law, Mitch Billian, who together prosecuted the application after his death and obtained the granted patent on his behalf.

Mr. Billian told me the ‘732 Patent is a significant innovation in controlling loads.  The patent includes a “detailed consideration of the communications and networking required to achieve the desired control, including the communication protocol exchanges between the control centers and the controlled loads.”

The patent also discusses the role of aggregators in load control, providing an “identification of the role and facilities of aggregators in combining control of such controllable loads to supply ancillary services to the grid,” Billian said.

FIG. 4 of the ‘732 Patent illustrates a load control center (416) which aggregates load information from multiple loads:

FIG. 4

In environment (400) load control center (416) receives load parameters from controllable loads (404) through load control network (406) to calculate load settings for one or more of the controllable loads (404) in view of the aggregated indications of available power and to communicate the load settings to the corresponding controllable loads (404) through load control network (406).

The impact of the patented technology on renewable energy use could be substantial as it allows “control of large numbers of existing and future residential, commercial, or industrial loads to help in achieving real power balancing control to compensate for the variability of wind power and other renewable generation,” Billian said.

An excerpt form Dr. Klein’s bio shows some of the diverse areas in which he made an impact during his life:

Dr. Stanley Klein, a Managing Principal of OSECS, represents OSECS in Smart Grid efforts and
in numerous other standards activities. He is active in SGIP activities including the Cyber
Security Working Group (CSWG) and several of its subgroups the Transmission and
Distribution Domain Experts Working Group (T&D DEWG), Priority Action Plans PAP-11 (on
Common Object Models for Electric Transportation), the Vehicle-to-Grid DEWG, PAP-14 (on
T&D Model Mapping), and PAP-16 (on Wind Plant Communications). He is also a member of
IEC TC 57 WG-15 on cybersecurity for the IEC standards, was a member of the IEC task group
that prepared IEC-61400-25-4 Annex A, has participated in a number of IEEE standards efforts
as a member of either a working group or a ballot pool, and is a member of the NERC Control
System Security Working Group (that prepares relevant NERC guidelines).

The world could use more brilliant innovators like Dr. Klein.

Big Win for Paice as Jury Finds Hyundai and Kia Owe $28.9 Million

October 20th, 2015


Back in 2012, hybrid vechicle technology company Paice filed a lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia in federal court in Baltimore accusing the Korean automakers of infringing three of its patents.

The patents-in-suit were U.S. Patent Nos. 7,237,634, 7,104,347, and 7,559,388.  All three patents are entitled “Hybrid vehicles” and cover hybrid electric vehicles utilizing an internal combustion engine with series parallel electric motors, regenerative braking, and control circuitry.

The Paice technology is called the Hyperdrive System and provides seamless switching between power from an electric motor and an internal combustion engine.

Recently, a Maryland federal jury returned a big verdict for Paice, deciding that Hyundai and Kia owe $28.9 million in damages for patent infringement.  The jury found that all of the asserted claims of the patents were valid and willfully infringed (see the report here on Autoblog and by Bloomberg news here).

The trial lasted eight days, but the jury needed just one day of deliberations to reach a verdict.

According to Paice’s press release, the $28.9 million sum represents a payment of $200 for each infringing hybrid vehicle sold by the defendants through June 30, 2015.  The cars at issue were the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and the Kia Optima Hybrid.

Paice has successfully enforced its patents before, most notably licensing its hybrid technology to Toyota, which signed a global licensing deal in 2010 covering all of Paice’s technology.

Hyundai and Kia are likely to appeal the decision.

Book Review: The Globalization of Clean Energy Technology by Kelly Sims Gallagher

October 6th, 2015

Gallagher book

The Globalization of Clean Energy Technology:  Lessons from China is a thoroughly researched and well-written book and an important contribution to the subject of clean tech innovation.

Five years in the making, Kelly Sims Gallagher’s book uses case studies of four clean energy industries (gas turbines, solar PV, coal gasification, and advanced batteries) in China to learn lessons about international technology transfer.

To guide her research, Gallagher asked these questions:

Which barriers most inhibit the global diffusion of cleaner and more efficient energy technologies?

Which incentives or conditions are necessary to motivate the global diffusion of these technologies?

Through dozens of interviews with individuals in firms, academic experts, and government officials, as well as focus groups, patent analysis, and comparative policy analysis, the book does much to uncover which commercial and policy factors have positive or negative effects on the clean energy industries examined.

I particularly like the organization of the book.  After an introduction and a chapter on China’s energy and environmental policies and innovation system, Chapter 3 presents the case studies as “complete stories” and introduces barriers and incentives to global diffusion of clean technologies.

The case studies represented both “successful” (solar PV) and “failed” (gas turbines) technology transfer and some mixed results (advanced batteries for vehicles and coal gasification).

Subsequent chapters provide detailed analysis of three of the most critical actual or perceived barriers – policy, intellectual property, and cost/finance.

The conclusions Gallagher draws are that national market-formation policies and access to capital are the most important factors needed for global diffusion of clean technologies.

Intellectual property is not generally found to be an impediment to clean tech innovation and transfer:

One set of barriers/incentives that this research does not find significant for the cross-border diffusion of cleaner energy technologies is access to or infringement of intellectual property.

However, there have been some refusals to license, including Toyota HEV patents:

The Chinese have not been able to obtain licenses from Toyota for hybrid-electric technology, and they further think there is no room for Chinese innovation because the Japanese firms have defensively patented the entire space.

But even this may be a blessing in disguise as the Chinese may be leapfrogging to EVs.

One refreshing thing about this book is that Gallagher has no apparent agenda (a marked departure from some literature on the subject).  She writes in the mold of some of the economists who have studied the effects of patents on clean tech such as John H. Barton.  The book is empirically focused; Gallagher wants to find the facts and get to the bottom of it.

And get to the bottom of it Gallagher does.  She finds “widespread agreement that the most important incentive is national-level, market-formation policies.”

The Chinese and foreign experts she interviewed agree that such incentives have encouraged cross-border transfer of the four clean technologies studied – policies including clear targets over time, lack of significant barriers to trade and foreign direct investment, strong innovation policy, stable market-formation policy, and strong export promotion policy.

An extra feature, and another reason to buy this book, is the nearly comprehensive list of case studies on clean tech transfer in Appendix B.

In conclusion, Gallagher’s book is a major contribution to the clean tech innovation literature.  She explains the nature of the contribution concisely:

One of this book’s contributions is to clarify which barriers and incentives for the global diffusion of cleaner energy technologies are most important in the Chinese context, and, ideally, more generally.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint (and Settlement) Update

September 22nd, 2015

Several new green patent complaints were filed in July and August in the areas of LEDs, smart grid, and water meters.

But before we get to that, a significant green patent case settled during this period.  Colorado-based Gevo and BP-DuPont joint venture Butamax announced that they entered into worldwide patent cross-license and settlement agreements.

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

The agreement grants both parties patent licenses to all fields for isobutanol and includes a combination of royalty-bearing and royalty-free fields for both parties.  According to this piece from Biofuels Digest, it seems the core of the deal is that Butamax will take the lead in the on-road gasoline market and Gevo gets the jet fuel market.

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



Feit Electric Company, Inc. v. Cree, Inc.

After Cree sued Feit for alleged infringement of 10 patents back in January, Feit fired back with this lawsuit filed July 7, 2015 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

The complaint accuses Cree of infringing two related U.S. Patent Nos. 8,408,748 and 9,016,901, both entitled “LED lamp replacement of low power incandescent lamp” (LED Lamp Patents).

The LED Lamp Patents are directed to LED light bulbs for replacing incandescents.  The LED lamp has an elevated light source positioned above a screw-type base and two groups of LEDs connected in series with each LED mounted proximate a heat sink.

The accused products are Cree’s 4Flow LED lamps.


Koninklijke Philips N.V. et al. v. Amerlux LLC et al.

Philips has filed another patent infringement lawsuit, asserting six LED lighting patents against New Jersey lighting company Amerlux.  The complaint was filed August 5, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

The patents-in-suit are:

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. 6,577,512, entitled “Power supply for LEDs”

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. 8,220,958, entitled “Light-beam shaper”

Philips alleges that a host of Amerlux products infringe one or more of the asserted patents, including accent display lighting products, task lighting products, wall wash and grazer lighting products, shelf lighting products, downlights, pendants, outdoor lighting products, and other luminaire-type lighting products.


Smart Grid

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. Redpine Signals, Inc.

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. Atmel Corporation

Endeavor MeshTech (a wholly-owned subsidiary of patent monetization firm Endeavor IP) continued its patent enforcement campaign, filing two more lawsuits in July and August.

The first was filed against Redpine in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on July 1, 2015 (Endeavor Meshtech v. Redpine), the second against Atmel in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on July 6, 2015 (Endeavor Meshtech v. ATMEL).

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

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

The accused products are Redpine’s n-Link, Connect-io-n, WiSeConnect, M2MCombo, SmartCombo, NetCombo and WinergyNet products and Atmel’s products sold under the brand names ZigBit, SmartConnect, BitCloud, and SMART.


Regen Energy Inc. v. eCurv Inc. 

On August 19, 2015 Regen Energy, a Canadian corporation with operations in San Marcos, California, sued Massachusetts-based eCurv for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 8,918,223 (‘223 Patent) and 9,110,647 (‘647 Patent).

The ‘223 and ‘647 Patents are related patents entitled, respectively “Apparatus for managing an energy consuming load” and “Method and apparatus for managing an energy consuming load.”  They are directed to energy management systems and methods that generate load state data from energy consuming loads, make enablement state decisions for the loads using the load state data, and implement the enablement state decisions.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, the complaint alleges that eCurv’s QPAC line of energy management software and related products infringe the ‘223 and ‘647 Patents.


Water Meters

Green4All Energy Solutions, Inc. v. Flow Dynamics, LLC et al.

In this action for tortious interference, unfair competition and declaratory judgment, Chicago-based Green4All requests that the court declare Flow Dynamics’ U.S. Patent No. 8,707,981 (‘981 Patent) invalid.

The ‘981 Patent is entitled “System for increasing the efficiency of a water meter” and directed to a valve assembly that increases the efficiency of an upstream water meter by removing entrained water bubbles from the water supply.

Filed August 5, 2015 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the complaint alleges that Flow Dynamics’ prior filed patent infringement suit against Green4All (reported here) is without merit and the ‘981 Patent should be declared not infringed and invalid.

Guest Post: UK Court Invalidates Enercon Patent, But is this the End?

September 15th, 2015

A decision by the High Court of Justice in the UK has handed Enercon a blow in the enforcement of their patent related to power ramp down after the cut out wind speed (EP0847496).

Enercon first filed their patent in 1995 in Germany and has been commercially offering their ‘Storm Control’ technology on their own turbines for many years since. An image representing the power output control strategy is taken from the Enercon patent.

Totaro FIG. 1

In invalidating the Enercon patent, the UK court seems to have taken an interesting interpretation of a paper from E.A. Bossanyi published in 1982 which dealt with an evaluation of performance the Boeing built MOD-2 wind turbine which was contracted by NASA and erected in 1980. Essentially, the Bossanyi paper contemplates a method for power ramp-down specially adapted to the variable speed, constant frequency (VSCF) MOD-2 wind turbine.

Siemens relied upon expert testimony in arguing that this approach could be applied to variable speed, variable pitch (VSVP) machines being developed around the time of the Enercon patent filing. The UK court agreed.

Totaro FIG. 1

Siemens also referenced a 1980 patent filing by Toshiba in their attempt to invalidate the Enercon patent. The Toshiba patent describes technology which ramps down after the ‘conventional’ cut-out wind speed, but does not ramp all the way down to null output power. Nevertheless, the UK court did not favor the Siemens interpretation of the Toshiba patent that it teaches what Enercon claimed in their own very similar patent.

totaro fig. 3

Open Opposition

Interestingly, Vestas had previously filed an opposition against the European version of the Enercon patent in a timeframe that would have allowed them to present new prior art. However, their opposition was rejected in November 2002 without citing either the Toshiba patent or the Bossanyi paper.

Nevertheless, a new opposition period against the Enercon patent filing was made possible as of January 2015 based upon an amendment to the Enercon patent triggered by the UK court matter. The prior art references and precedent set in the UK will likely influence a decision by the European Patent Office (EPO) on the validity of the Enercon patent.

However, invalidity of the European patent is not for certain and Enercon still has the opportunity to appeal the UK ruling. The European Patent Office does not have to accept the same conclusion as the UK court, so it will be very noteworthy if the European Patent Office takes the same approach regarding the Bossanyi reference in their review of the amended Enercon patent.

Since Enercon is likely to appeal the UK ruling, the Siemens matter is far from over yet.

Gamesa Litigation

This European patent filing from Enercon serves as the parent to both the UK as well as the Spanish patent which is the subject of the ongoing litigation with Gamesa. The precedent set in the UK is likely to have repercussions on the litigation in Spain if the UK court position on invalidity holds.

An invalidation of the European patent would likely negate the damage award against Gamesa in Spain, but there is still potentially room for Enercon to argue their position here, so the outcome is not guaranteed for anyone involved either.

In the meantime, Gamesa should at least be able to leverage off the non-infringement arguments in their appeal in the Spanish court.

New Precedent

The UK court potentially establishes another interesting precedent here, because there are certainly other patents held by companies in the wind industry which attempt to deal with component loading and fatigue which could also potentially be argued as obvious in light of the UK court’s interpretation of the technology developed for VSCF being applicable to VSVP based turbines.

The UK court judge refers to adjustment of the torque and pitch control “knobs” as a means to control generator rotor rpm as an obvious method in light of the Bossanyi paper, but also acknowledges other methods of implementing such technology:

…it required no inventive activity at all for a skilled person given Bossanyi in 1995 to think seriously about how to implement the power ramp down proposal in VSVP turbines.  They would consider how to put that into practice and, in terms of controls, it was obvious to think about “turning” the electric torque “knob” and the pitch control “knob”.  Reducing rotor speed as the wind speed increased as a way of reducing power accordingly is not the only way of putting Bossanyi into practice but it is an obvious approach.  Reducing the speed this way has an obvious advantage in terms of loading and fatigue.

Final Thoughts

Over the past 10 years we have seen Enercon attempt to enforce patents on frequency and voltage regulation against Vestas unsuccessfully, with the result being an invalidation in Ireland and the UK. We have also seen MHI successfully challenge the validity of the GE zero voltage ride-through patent in the US leading to an overturning of the $169M judgement and a settlement of their other ongoing litigation matters.

The past history of the wind industry’s capitulation to licenses is likely at an end as companies arm themselves with information to defend against the onslaught of IP challenges they face. This new level of intelligence gained as well as a better understanding of the commercial implications of IP infringement risks are providing companies with the opportunity to invalidate competitor patents with greater rigor and frequency than ever before in the industry’s history.

The implications of all these proceedings introduces some potentially substantial commercial risks into the project development process. Now that companies are willing to target the turbine OEMs, project developers and even the EPC contractors for patent infringement liability, the proactive companies are already arming themselves with information to ensure they can proceed smoothly.


*Philip Totaro is the CEO of 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  Totaro & Associates delivers Innovative Solutions Enabled by Intelligence™.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

July 21st, 2015

Several new green patent complaints were filed in May and June in the areas of LEDs, smart grid, and solar power including solar mounting systems and solar powered lanterns.



Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. iGuzzini Lighting USA, Ltd. et al.

On May 22, 2015, Philips sued iGuzzini for infringement of five patents relating to LEDs and LED lighting devices.  The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New York.  The patents-in-suit are:

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. 6,577,512, entitled “Power supply for LEDs”

U.S. Patent No. 6,586,890, entitled “LED driver circuit with PWM output”

U.S. Patent No. 7,802,902, entitled “LED lighting fixtures”

The accused products are iGuzzini’s Laser Blade, Primopiano-LED, Woody LED, and Palco LED lines.


Lynk Labs, Inc. v. Juno Lighting LLC et al.

Illinois-based Lynk Labs recently sued Juno Lighting for patent infringement, correction of inventorship, and breach of contract.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the complaint alleges infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 8,531,118, entitled “AC light emitting diode and AC LED drive methods and apparatus”(‘118 Patent) and 8,841,855, entitled “LED circuits and assemblies” (‘855 Patent).

Lynk Labs also has requested that the court correct the inventorship of Juno’s U.S. Patent No. 7,909,499, entitled “LED track lighting module” and U.S. Design Patent No. D579,144, entitled “L.E.D. light source cover” to include one or more officers or employees of Lynk Labs as co-inventors.

Finally, Lynk Labs alleges that Juno breached a 2006 Non-disclosure Agreement between the parties.


Smart Grid

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. Nexgrid, LLC

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. Freewave Technologies, Inc.

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. Zenner Performance Meters, Inc.

Endeavor MeshTech (a wholly-owned subsidiary of patent monetization firm Endeavor IP) continued its patent enforcement campaign, filing three more lawsuits in May and June.

The first was filed against Nexgrid in federal court in Richmond, Virginia on May 5, 2015 (Endeavor Meshtech v. Nexgrid), the second against Freewave Technologies in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on June 16, 2015 (Endeavor Meshtech v. Freewave), and the third against Zenner Performance Meters in federal court in Marshall, Texas on June 23, 2015 (Endeavor Meshtech v. Zenner).

The first two complaints accuse each Nexgrid and Freewave, respectively, of infringing three patents in a family – U.S. Patent Nos. 7,379,981 (‘981 Patent),  8,700,749 (‘749 Patent), and 8,855,019 (‘019 Patent), each entitled “Wireless communication enabled meter and network.”  The complaint against Zenner asserts only the ‘749 and ‘019 Patents.

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

The accused products and services are Nexgrid products sold under the Nexgrid Technology Solutions brand name, Freewave’s Comprehensive High-Speed Wireless M2M Communications Solution sold under the WavePoint brand name, and Zenner’s Stealth and MeshPlus branded products and services.


Solar Power

D Three Enterprises, LLC v. Sunmodo Corporation

D Three Enterprises, LLC v. Rillito River Solar LLC

On June 2, 2015 D Three filed two patent infringement suits in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

In the first (D Three Enterprises v. Sunmodo), D Three accuses Sunmodo of infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 8,689,517 (‘517 Patent) and 8,707,655 (‘655 Patent), both relating to involving sealing assemblies for roof-mounted solar panels.

The ‘517 and ‘655 Patents are related patents, each entitled “Roof mount sealing assembly” and directed to roof mount sealing assemblies that allow a user to mount rails for solar panels, signs, satellite dish or any other desired item on the roof and have the mounting location sealed against water.

The accused Sunmodo products are the EZ Mount assembly with Standoff for Shingle Roofs and the EZ Mount L-Foot Kit for Shingle Roofs.

The D Three complaint against Rillito asserts only the ‘517 Patent and alleges that Rillito’s (dba EcoFasten Solar) QuikFoot Roof Mount System with P-3-CSK Compression Post infringes the patent.


Allsop, Inc. v. Jetmax Ltd.

Allsop, a manufacturer of various consumer products including collapsible solar power lanterns, sued Hong Kong-based Jetmax for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,657,461 (‘461 Patent).

The ‘461 Patent is entitled “Solar-powered collapsible lighting apparatus” and directed to a solar-powered lighting apparatus having a light transmissible spherical shade coupled to a housing that receives a solar cell, a battery and at least a portion of a lighting element assembly.

Filed May 29, 2015 in federal court in Seattle, Washington, the complaint alleges that Jetmax’s Nylon Solar Hanging Lantern infringes the ‘461 Patent.


Vinson Conlan’s LED Patent Report: What’s at Stake in Cree v. Feit?

July 7th, 2015

A previous post reported on the LED patent lawsuit between North Carolina LED manufacturer Cree and Feit Electric Company in which Cree has alleged infringement of a number of utility and design patents.

There are several patents involved with this case but none as far reaching as U.S. Patent No. 8,596,819 (‘819 Patent). Let’s look at the first claim:

1.  A lighting device comprising at least one light emitting diode, said lighting device, when supplied with electricity of a first wattage, emitting output light with a wall plug efficiency of at least 60 lumens per watt of said electricity.

This claim covers all LED devices with an efficacy over 60 lumens per watt with at least one LED.

The latest Energy Star luminaire requirements (taking effect in 2016) for all luminaire categories, but track need to meet or exceed 60 LPW. Most large retailers have relied upon Energy Star to help qualify products for sale to residential customers. In some cases, products without Energy Star will not be considered for sale in retail outlets.

Energy Star is required to qualify for many utility rebate programs. Energy Star is a Department of Energy program and has been made aware of the ‘819 Patent. They were made aware of this patent issue before the latest luminaire requirements were finalized.

Those who honor the ‘819 Patent would be denied rebate dollars and the potential to sell into some large volume accounts because meeting Energy Star requirements would force them to infringe the patent.

Energy Star has the best interest of the country in mind, but one has to question their decisions when their policies will clearly steer rebates dollars and retail business directly towards a single patent holder.

This case is about more than one company against another, it is the test of a patent that could be used successfully to deny businesses the opportunity to get an Energy Star listing and qualify for rebate dollars.

For those looking to sell into the commercial channel and get added to the Design Lights Consortium (DLC) qualified product list, they will only qualify for display case lighting and directional interior categories. All lamps would infringe as well. Like Energy Star, DLC qualified products are eligible for rebates.

Another Cree patent in this lawsuit is U.S. Patent No. 8,628,214 (‘214 Patent).  This patent is very similar to the ‘819 Patent. The first claim of the ‘214 Patent reads:

 1.  A lighting device comprising:a first string of solid state light emitters in series, the first string comprising at least two solid state light emitters,

a second string of solid state light emitters in series, the second string comprising at least two solid state light emitters,

a third string of solid state light emitters in series, the third string comprising at least two solid state light emitters,

the lighting device, when supplied with electricity of a first wattage, emitting output light with a wall plug efficiency of at least 60 lumens per watt of the electricity.”

Perhaps it is time for those who support Energy Star and DLC to consider a revised set of efficacy standards that promote free trade and offer their customers a wider range of options. The following organizations have influence, and as objective third parties can help all interested parties find solutions that will help save energy without infringing these patents.

DSIRE Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency:

ACEEE (American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy):

AESP Association of Energy Service Professionals:

CEE (Consortium for Energy Efficiency):



Vinson Conlan has been developing light fixtures for nearly 30 years and has spent the last 9 years specializing in LED products. He has 8 US patents and has a broad range of experience working for family owned businesses as well as Fortune 100 companies. Vinson currently heads up product development for a leading company in the solid state lighting industry.

Ford EV Patents Open, Not Free; You Can License For a Fee

June 16th, 2015

Once is an isolated incident, twice could be a coincidence, but three times – that may make a trend.  Following Tesla’s big patent giveaway about a year ago and Toyota’s fuel cell vehicle patent limited license offer a few months ago, Ford recently announced that it has “opened” its electric vehicle patent portfolio.

Don’t get too excited, though.  This one is fundamentally different from the prior patent pledges.  Ford is not donating its patents or even offering limited-time royalty-free licenses to the patents.

Rather, Ford is offering the patents for license “for a fee” as the company’s press release explains.  In view of the other automakers’ EV freebies, Ford issued a brief statement in defense of it’s for-profit licensing scheme (reproduced here from a Financial Times article):

Defending the decision to charge for the patents, the company said “We’re proud of the work that we do.”  It added: “From the research we’ve conducted already, we feel that licensing is appropriate.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  To the contrary, companies should generate revenue from their R&D, their innovation, and their patents.

But the headline of the announcement obscures the fact that it’s a for-profit licensing venture (“Ford Opens Portfolio of Patented Technologies to Competitors to Accelerate Industry-Wide Electrified Vehicle Development”).

In intellectual property, the word “open” signals free use or public domain (e.g., open source), and the headline is particularly misleading in view of the recent Tesla and Toyota royalty-free patent license moves in this field.  Note Toyota’s press release also used “open” (“Toyota Opens the Door and Invites the Industry to the Hydrogen Future”).

Of course, reasonable people can differ in opinion as to whether the developing EV industry is better served by truly open patent portfolios or revenue generating licensing opportunities.  But either way, the patent holders should not mislead and should get the messaging right.

By the way, this trend of pledging patents appears to be a hot topic:  it’s the subject of a recent article by Professor Jorge Contreras called Patent Pledges and a conference held just yesterday at American University.