Archive for the ‘Hybrid and Electric Vehicles’ category

Chinese Eco-mark Lawsuit Ends Well for Tesla

March 4th, 2014

A previous post reported on Tesla’s Chinese trademark problem.  Apparently, a businessman named Zhan Baosheng had registered the TESLA (or “Te Si La” transliterated) trademark in China, blocking  the American automaker from using the mark there.

Mr. Zhan was also operating a web site using the Tesla China domain (www.teslamotors.com.cn), and operating a Tesla-branded account on the Chinese microblog site Sina Weibo.

As part of a recent press release announcing its plan for growth in China the company said it resolved the trademark issue.  More particularly, Tesla obtained a court decision granting it the right to use the TESLA mark in China (see the story here on Green Car Reports and covered by Clean Technica here).

Veronica Wu, Tesla’s vice president for China operations, said the company had won this right without the need to pay Mr. Zhan (who had apparently hinted that he would sell the trademark for millions of dollars).  According to Wu, “we went to court and won.”

Though technically Zhan may have been the first user of the TESLA mark in China, the court decision seems right because his apparent high asking price for the mark signals bad faith on his part and that his use may not have been bona fide.

This decision bodes well for American and other non-Chinese companies who may need to protect and enforce their intellectual property rights against local competitors in China.

The highest profile clean tech IP dispute in China is the trade secrets and copyright case between American Superconductor and Chinese turbine manufacturer Sinovel, which made it all the way to, and is (as far as I know) still pending in, the Chinese Supreme Court.

Tesla Battery Pack Patents Reveal a Different Kind of Hybrid

October 14th, 2013

 

A family of Tesla patents and pending applications relating to a hybrid battery system has been generating a bit of buzz (see, e.g., Cleantechnica’s story here). 

The patent family includes U.S. Patent Nos. 8,190,320, 8,450, 974, 8,471,521 and 8,543,270 as well as U.S. Patent Application Publication Nos. 2013/0181511 (’511 Application) and 2013/0187591 (’591 Application), some of which are entitled “Electric vehicle extended range hybrid battery pack system” and others entitled “Efficient dual source battery pack system for an electric vehicle” (collectively, “Hybrid Battery Pack Patents”).

Some of the applications were filed back in 2010, and some of the patents issued in 2012.  The Cleantechnica piece refers only to the ’511 and ’591 Applications, which published in July, because these applications apparently were cited in a recent report by Global Equities Research.

The Hybrid Battery Pack Patents are directed to methods of extending an electric vehicle’s driving range through a discharge cycle (201) using energy paths (203, 204) flowing from two battery packs, one being a metal-air battery pack (101) and the other being a non-metal-air battery pack (103), presumably a lithium ion battery.

Controller (107) controls the flow of energy to and from both the metal-air battery pack (101) and the non-metal-air battery pack (103).  The methodology applied by the controller (107) is based on input from a variety of sensors (211) as well as the current operating conditions such as temperature and state-of-charge (SOC) of both battery packs.

One example of the methodology can be seen in FIG. 3 of the Hybrid Battery Pack Patents, in which the metal-air (MA) battery pack is used to charge the non-metal-air (NMA) battery pack when the SOC of the NMA battery pack falls below a preset value.

This is consistent with the Cleantechnica article, which notes the patents’ mention of a mode whereby the metal-air battery woudl charge the lithium-ion battery.  The article says the hybrid battery pack would primarily use the lithium ion battery and draw power from the metal-air battery only on extended journeys.

From the patents’ summary section:

The present invention provides a power source comprised of a first battery pack (e.g., a non-metal-air battery pack) and a second battery pack (e.g., a metal-air battery pack), wherein the second battery pack is only used as required by the state-of-charge (SOC) of the first battery pack or as a result of the user selecting an extended range mode of operation.

The Hybrid Battery Pack Patents note that metal-air batteries have certain advantages over conventional rechargeable batteries such as extremely high energy density, but they also have drawbacks like electrolyte evaporation and the need to ensure sufficient air supply.  By combining a metal-air battery with a lithium ion battery, the hybrid system takes “advantage of the benefits of both battery types, while significantly limiting the negative effects of either type.”

Cleantechnica calls this a “different kind of hybrid” and says “[a] hybrid battery of this type could offer Tesla customers greater driving ranges, while not drastically increasing costs.”

Chinese Eco-mark Madness and Related News

September 26th, 2013

There have been a few recent developments in Chinese eco-marks (my term for marks used in connection with green goods or services), both in China and in the United States.

Starting with by far the weirdest news item, a small Chinese electric car technology company called Hong Yuan Lan Xiang (HYLX) has filed a trademark application in China to register the name SNOWDEN for for its “top secret technologies and products” (see the Green Car Reports article here).

These include new removable batteries, technologies for increased charging speeds, and technologies for remodeling conventional cars into electric-capable models.  Apparently, the company thinks the top secret nature of its technologies makes Snowden the perfect brand name for them.

Also in China, U.S. electric carmaker Tesla Motors has encountered what appears to be a cybersquatter and prior registrant of the TESLA mark.  According to this Reuters story, Zhan Baosheng owns a Chinese trademark registration for TESLA, runs a web site using the Tesla China domain (www.teslamotors.com.cn), and operates a Tesla-branded account on the Chinese microblog site Sina Weibo.

Zhan’s web site includes a Tesla brand logo that is almost identical to that of Tesla Motors and shows a car quite unlike any of Tesla Motors’ vehicles.  It seems likely that Tesla Motors will have to buy out Zhan to clear the way for its trademark rights and branding efforts in China.

Finally, an eco-mark infringement suit covered in a previous post has come to a close (at least in the trial court).  This case pitted  SunEarth (owned and operated by the Solaray Corporation since 1992), which manufactures and sells solar thermal collectors and related components, against Ningbo Solar Electric Power (Ningbo) and its U.S. subsidiary, which was selling solar photovoltaics under the SUN-EARTH (and Design) mark:

Ningbo owns U.S. Trademark Registration No. 3,886,941 (’941 Registration), registered in 2010, and the company changed its name to Sun-Earth Solar Power (SESP) the same year.

After filing a proceeding in the USPTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel the ’941 Registration and trying to negotiate a settlement with Ningbo, SunEarth sued for trademark infringement, cancellation of the registration, and other claims in the Northern District of California in October 2011.

In a recent decision, the court held that Ningbo was liable for trademark infringement and ordered the USPTO to cancel the ’941 Registration.  Although Ningbo’s trademark registration was entitled to a presumption of validity, SunEarth successfully rebutted the presumption by demonstrating prior use of the mark, a fact conceded by Ningbo:

Plaintiffs have introduced evidence that they have used the term SunEarth as a trademark, trade name and service mark in the United States since 1978.  Defendants have conceded that Plaintiffs have “common law prior user rights in several states of the United States to its SunEarth mark for solar thermal systems.”

Although Ningbo disputed the geographic extent of SunEarth’s common law prior user rights, the court found that SunEarth had established “legally sufficient national market penetration over their trade name and mark” prior to Ningbo’s first use of the mark.

From there, it was simply a matter of conducting a routine likelihood of confusion analysis, which favored SunEarth due to the similarity of the marks, the proximity of the goods (solar photovoltaics and solar collectors), and the similar trade channels such as solar product shows, specialty retailers, and trade magazines.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update, Part II

August 8th, 2013

The second part of this green patent complaint update covers the period mid-June through most of July, during which several new complaints were filed in the areas of biofuels, components for hybrid and electric vehicles, LEDs, energy efficiency, solar air conditioners, water technology, and waste treatment.

 

Biofuels

GS Cleantech Corp. v. Western New York Energy, LLC

GS Cleantech recently filed another lawsuit, this one against Western New York Energy in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York on July 12, 2013. 

The asserted patents are 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.

According to the complaint, Western New York uses infringing processes performed by ethanol production plants purchased from a plant designer called ICM.  ICM was involved in prior litigation with GS.

GS has been on an aggressive patent enforcement campaign over the last several years.  The multiple cases were consolidated in the Southern District of Indiana, where the asserted patents were construed and re-construed.

 

Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

Northern Cable and Automation, LLC v. General Motors Co.

This is a dispute over ownership and inventorship of U.S. Patent No. 7,976,333, entitled “Laminar electrical connector” (’333 Patent) and directed to an electrical connector specifically designed for use in hybrid and electric vehicles.

According to the complaint, filed in the Eastern District of Michigan on July 11, 2013, GM claims that one of its employees should be named as a co-inventor on the ’333 Patent and that Northern Cable, d/b/a, Flex Cable is obligated to assign certain rights in the patent to GM.

Flex Cable alleges that the inventor, Erwin Kroulik, conceived of the invention of the ’333 Patent before the date of an agreement with GM, and therefore Flex Cable is not obligated to assign any rights in the ’333 Patent to GM. 

 

LEDs

Trustees of Boston University v. Apple, Inc.

On July 2, 2013 BU filed another lawsuit in federal court in Boston, continuing its patent enforcement campaign against various LED makers and electronics manufacturers.  The complaint again asserts U.S. Patent No. 5,686,738 (’738 Patent). 

The ’738 Patent is entitled “Highly insulated monocrystalline gallium nitride thin films” and directed to gallium nitride semiconductor devices and methods of preparing highly insulating GaN single crystal films in a molecular beam epitaxial growth chamber.

The accused products are the iPhone 5, iPad, and MacBook Air that include allegedly infringing LED devices.

 

Energy Efficiency

Efficiency Systems, LLC v. Cisco Systems, Inc.

Efficiency Systems, LLC v. Dell Inc.

Efficiency Systems, LLC v. IBM Corp.

Efficiency Systems, LLC v. Oracle Corp. et al.

On June 28 and 29, 2013, Efficiency Systems fired off four patent infringement suits in federal court in Delaware against Cisco (Cisco complaint), Dell (Dell complaint), IBM (IBM complaint), and Oracle (Oracle complaint).

Each complaint asserts U.S. Patent No. 6,986,069, entitled “Methods and apparatus for static and dynamic power management of computer systems” (’069 Patent).  The ’069 Patent is directed to a power authority system for manipulating the aggregate power consumption levels of multiple computer systems by managing the power consumption levels of the computer systems.

The accused systems include various server systems, computer systems and components containing power management features.

 

Solar Air Conditioners

Sedna Aire USA Inc. v. Eco Solar Technologies, Inc.

Sedna Aire recently sued Eco Solar for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,448,458, alleged cybersquatting, and alleged passing off in connection with use of the mark SOLAR COOL (and Design).

The ’458 Patent is entitled “Solar collector and solar air conditioning system having the same” and directed to a solar air conditioning system including a solar collector.  The system superheats working fluid using radiant energy from the sun and delivers the working fluid as a superheated and higher-pressure gas to a condenser within the solar air conditioning system.

Filed June 24, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the complaint alleges that Eco Solar is selling a solar air conditioner based on Sedna’s patented design and engaging in unauthorized use of the SOLAR COOL trademark.

 

Water Purification

Aquatech International Corp. v. Veolia Water West Operating Services, Inc. et al.

On June 27, 2013, Aquatech filed a complaint against Veolia in the Western District of Pennsylvania, alleging infringement of two patents relating to water purification technology.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 5,925,255 and 6,537,456, each entitled “Method and apparatus for high efficiency reverse osmosis operation.”  The patents relate to Aquatech’s HERO water purification process, a high efficiency reverse osmosis water purification process which is used in many industries including power generation, petrochemical, and microelectronics. 

The accused process is Veolia’s OPUS technology, which the complaint alleges Veolia is using in various locations including a Chevron oil production field in San Ardo, California and the Arroyo Grande Oilfield in San Luis Obispo County, California.

 

Waste Treatment

Trunzo v. Grobstein

In this suit filed June 25, 2013 in federal court in Los Angeles, Michael Trunzo sued the trustee for the bankruptcy estate of debtor International Environmental Solutions Corporation (IES) and purchasers of IES’s assets for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5,868,085 (’085 Patent).

Entitled “Pyrolytic waste treatment system,” the ’085 Patent is directed to a system for pyrolysis of hydrocarbon constituents of waste material including a heating chamber in communication with the atmosphere via a first valve and in communication with a pyrolysis chamber via a second internal valve.

The complaint alleges that the defendants have infringed the ’085 Patent by reverse engineering a waste-to-energy unit, and the defendants have issued a distributorship/developers license to defendant Wayne Herling for the purpose of marketing, distributing and selling the the allegedly infringing units.

Con-Fusion: Class Actions Accuse Ford of Greenwashing Hybrid Vehicle Fuel Efficiency

February 22nd, 2013

In the latest fuel efficiency greenwashing litigation (see, e.g., here), Ford has been hit with two class actions alleging the automaker misrepresented the miles per gallon achieved by its Fusion and C-Max SE hybrid vehicles.

The complaints (Pitkin – Ford Complaint; Strand – Ford Complaint), filed recently in federal court in Los Angeles and Santa Ana, accuse Ford of a “systematic advertising scheme” deceptively touting the cars’ combined (city and highway) 47 mpg EPA gas mileage estimate. 

According to plaintiffs, the EPA estimates do not provide actual mileage for a vehicle under normal, real life driving conditions because the test conditions are designed to maximize fuel mileage.  The EPA tests are conducted using lab machines called dynamometers instead of roads, one of the complaints says.  In addition, the highway portion of the test uses a speed range of only about 48-60 miles per hour and is performed by a professional driver.

According to the complaints, Consumer Reports found that the C-Max hybrid achieved a combined 37 mpg, and the Fusion hybrid a combined 39 mpg, well under the advertised 47 mpg figure. 

The class plaintiffs accuse Ford of misleading consumers by advertising the EPA mpg estimates as actual, expected mileage under normal, real world driving conditions while failing to disclose that the ratings are mere estimates based on particular testing conditions.

There seems to be an increasing outcry about autombile mileage testing criteria and automakers’ use of EPA data in advertising.  One of the major allegations in the Hyundai and Kia greenwashing cases is that the automakers employed flawed fuel economy testing procedures.  Perhaps it’s time for better testing procedures to reflect real world driving conditions and/or for car companies to better communicate exactly what the fuel estimates mean.

Falsely Over 40?: Hyundai and Kia Collide with Consumer Class Actions Alleging Greenwash

December 13th, 2012

A host of proposed class action lawsuits (e.g., Krauth-Hyundai Complaint; Quiroz-Kia Complaint; Graewingholt-Hyundai Kia Complaint; Olson-Hyundai Kia Complaint) have been filed in the last several weeks against one or both of Kia and Hyundai accusing the Korean automakers of making false or misleading fuel efficiency claims in their advertising and marketing materials.

At the heart of these “garden variety” greenwashing cases (see, e.g., here and here for examples of the other kinds) are allegations that the automakers built advertising campaigns around representations that a number of their vehicles achieved gas mileage in the 40 mile per gallon range when the companies knew or should have known the actual mileage was signficantly lower.  The mpg was also alleged to be misrepresented on many of the vehicles’ window stickers.

Some of the advertising statements cited in the cases include:

“With its 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway standard fuel economy rating, Elantra is a perfect vehicle for consumers looking for an affordable solution to rising gas prices….”

“In the first quarter of 2012, 39 percent of all Hyundai vehicles sold achieved 40 mpg on the highway thanks in large part to Elantra’s continued success.”

The Hyundai Accent manages “a best-in-class standard 40 mpg fuel economy rating on the highway” and “achieves a category-leading 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway rating, making it one of four Hyundai nameplates to eclipse teh 40 mpg mark.”

Kia’s web site states that the Optima Hybrid, Rio, Soul, and Sportage have all received the EPA SmartWay Certification Mark – a designation given by the EPA “to the cleanest most fuel efficient vehicles.”

According to the complaints, an EPA investigation prompted by consumer inquiries found the gas mileage was overstated in seven Hyundai models and six Kia models, with as much as a 6 mpg discrepancy in some models.  The complaints further state that Kia and Hyundai admitted they had misrepresented mile per gallon and fuel efficiency data.

One complaint notes the historic significance of the EPA audit:

The EPA’s Hyundai/Kia investigation is the first instance where the EPA has found a large number of vehicles from the same manufacturers deviated significantly from the manufacturer represented mileage figures.

The problem, according to another complaint, was flawed fuel economy testing.  More particularly, Hyundai and Kia allegedly made procedural errors in their “coastdown” testing, implementing methods that were not compliant with EPA requirements and “insufficient in design, procedure, content, execution, and/or completeness.”  As a result, the fuel economy ratings were “affected, inaccurate, and overstated.”

One of the complaints notes that Kia and Hyundai said they would implement a “refund” program, but calls the program “fraught with problems.”  Instead, most of the actions seek injunctive relief relating to the companies’ advertising, restitution, and monetary damages.

“Defendants apparently placed profit before integrity in the marketing and sale” of their vehicles, one of the complaints summarizes.   That plaintiff also quoted an Edmonds analyst’s seemingly apt prediction:

“In an industry where reputation is so important, this will undoubtedly give both carmakers ugly black eyes.”

Class Action Charges Nissan with LEAF Greenwash

October 10th, 2012

Hybrid electric vehicles have frequently been targeted in court, taking flak for alleged greenwashing (see, e.g., here and here) and alleged patent infringement (see, e.g., here and here).

That trend continued and extended to electric plug-in vehicles with a recent class action complaint accusing Nissan of making misleading representations and omissions regarding the LEAF’s battery capacity and driving range. 

Filed in federal court in Los Angeles by representative Plaintiffs Humberto Daniel Klee and David Wallak, the complaint alleges that the 100 miles per charge advertised driving range of the LEAF is based on a fully charged battery when the automaker recommends charging the battery only up to 80% to avoid damage:

Unbeknownst to purchasers, the advertised driving range is based on the vehicle’s performance only after fully charging the battery to 100% capacity.  In fact, however, charging the battery to 100% causes battery damage, and Nissan expressly recommends that owners not charge their vehicles to 100% in order to maximize battery life and that the battery be charged to only 80% capacity.

The class action also alleges that the LEAF’s battery system has a design defect in that it lacks an active thermal management system to circulate cooling fluid through the battery array, a system that comparable vehicles such as the Chevy Volt, Toyota RAV4 EV and the Ford Focus use.  According to Plaintiffs, this defect leads to battery damage and loss of capacity:

The lack of an adequate active cooling system is a design defect that fails to adequately cool the batteries, causing the batteries to suffer heat-related damage and causing premature battery capacity loss, well in excess of Nissan’s own guidelines.

More particularly, the complaint says the LEAF owner’s manual indicates the vehicle may lose 20% of battery capacity over five years of operation while class members’ vehicles are losing over 27.5% battery capacity within the first 1-2 years of operation.  This problem is especially pronounced in warm climates.  The class action also alleges that Nissan expressly excluded loss of battery capacity under its 8-year / 100,00 mile battery warranty.

The complaint quotes a Wired Magazine article in which a Nissan product planner says the automaker elected to forgo active thermal management of the battery pack because it would have required a central tunnel on top of the pack, which would have intruded on cabin space and split the rear bench into two seats with a hump in the middle.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, is also cited for his critique of the LEAF prior to its launch.  According to the complaint, in 2009 Musk called the car’s thermal management system “primitive” and predicted the battery would suffer “huge degradation” in cold environments and “shut off” in hot ones.

To my knowledge, this is the first greenwashing lawsuit targeting an all electric plug-in vehicle.   It’s unlikely to be the last.

Tour Engine’s Split-Cycle Technology Improves Internal Combustion

September 4th, 2012

Tour Engine is a San Diego company that has developed a more fuel efficient internal combustion engine (ICE) based on standard piston/cylinder engine architecture.  

The company’s TourEngine builds on a “split-cycle” design.  While conventional ICEs use the same cylinder for all four strokes, the TourEngine splits the 4-stroke cycle between two opposing cylinders.  The elegant innovation of the engine – and what differentiates it from previous split-cycle engines – is the direct coupling of the two cylinders by a special crossover valve.

In the TourEngine design, the two cold strokes – intake and compression – occur in one relatively cold cylinder while the hot strokes – combustion and exhaust – occur in the other relatively hot cylinder.  Thus, the hot and cold strokes occur in parallel, and this configuration allows flexibility in thermal management, minimizing energy losses and boosting efficiency. 

I recently met Dr. Oded Tour, the company’s Co-founder and CEO, at the New Energy New York Symposium.  Tour Engine was a semifinalist at the startup competition, and I was able to catch up with Dr. Tour after his presentation to discuss the company’s technology and intellectual property.

He told me the company has patented the basic core innovation, which is the direct coupling of the two cylinders by a special crossover valve that regulates the precisely timed transfer of the compressed charge from the cold cylinder to the hot cylinder. 

Tour said the special valve is designed to be wide enough to eliminate any bottleneck between the two cylinders yet narrow enough so it does not become a separate compartment.  In this way, any energy input and compression by the engine is transferred completely between cylinders without losing energy.  The direct coupling of the cylinders via the valve also eliminates the need for a connecting tube.

Tour Engine owns at least three U.S. Patents and several international patent applications covering its technology.

Two related patents – U.S. Patent Nos. 7,383,797 and 7,516,723 – are entitled “Double piston cycle engine” and directed to a dual piston apparatus including an interstage valve (collectively “Valve Patents”). 

The Valve Patents describe and claim a dual piston apparatus comprising a compression cylinder (01) housing a compression piston (03), a power cylinder (02) housing a power piston (04), two piston connection rods (05, 06) connecting their respective pistons to their respective compression crankshaft (07) or power crankshaft (08), a crankshaft connecting rod (09), an intake valve (10), an exhaust valve (11), and an interstage valve (12).

The compression piston (03) moves relative to the compression cylinder (01) in the direction indicated by the illustrated arrows, and the power piston (04) moves similarly relative to the power cylinder (02).

The interstage valve (12), which may be formed as a shaft having a conic shaped sealing surface, governs the compressed carbureted air/fuel charge flow from a volume B in the compression cylinder (01) as it is pushed into a volume C in the power cylinder (02).  In addition, the interstage valve (12) prevents reverse flow of fuel from volume C back into volume B.

In an open position, the interstage valve (12) allows compressed fuel to flow from compression cylinder (01) into the power cylinder (02).  The valve remains closed during combustion and along the power stroke, and typically opens around the time the exhaust valve (11) closes.

U.S. Patent No. 7,273,023 is entitled “Steam enhanced double piston cycle engine” and directed to a dual piston apparatus for a combustion engine in which the piston in the first cylinder performs only intake and compression strokes and the piston in the second cylinder performs only power and exhaust strokes.  A third piston utilizes heat energy generated by the second piston to perform additional power strokes.

According to Dr. Tour, the company’s patented core innovation is important for a few reasons.  First, the simplicity of the patented technology makes it a very cost-effective solution.  Second, the TourEngine is a platform technology that can be utilized in multiple verticals.  Finally, the patented innovation is just the beginning and sets the stage for additional IP protection.  Dr. Tour told me with confidence, “there will be hundreds of patents around this technology.”

With the recent passage of new federal automobile mileage mandates, electric vehicles alone probably can’t carry us to 54.5 miles per gallon, and improved ICE technology like the TourEngine could play a major role.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

March 8th, 2012

 

There have been several green patent complaints filed in the past few weeks in the fields of hybrid vehicles, solar power, LEDs, and wastewater treatment.

 

Hybrid Vehicles

Paice LLC et al. v. Hyundai Motor Company et al.

On February 16, 2012, Paice filed suit against Hyundai and Kia in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division.  The Paice-Hyundai_Complaint alleges Hyundai and Kia infringed three of Paice’s patents relating to hybrid vehicles.

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

Paice claims all three patents are infringed in Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid and Kia’s Optima Hybrid vehicles and seeks both injunctive relief and monetary damages.

This case is a major return to patent enforcement for Paice.  The company settled its litigation with Toyota in 2010 after Toyota agreed to take a license to Paice’s entire patent portfolio.

 

Solar Power

Solannex, Inc. v. Miasole, Inc.

Filed on February 21, 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, Solannex’s Complaint (Complaint) alleges that Miasole infringes two of its patents relating to photovoltaic cells.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent No. 8,076,568 entitled “Collector Grid and Interconnect Structures for Photovoltaic Array and Modules:, and U.S. Patent No. 8,110,737 entitled “Collector Grid Electrode Structures and Interconnect Structures for Photovoltaic Arrays and Methods of Manufacture”.

According to the complaint, the two patents relate to “interconnections of multiple photovoltaic cells.”  Solannex asserts that several products in Miasole’s MR-Series and MS-Series product lines are infringing.  Solannex is seeking both injunctive relief and monetary damages.

Solannex sued Miasole in January 2011 over a related patent

 

LEDs

Toyoda Gosei Co., Ltd. v. Formosa Epitaxy, Inc.

On February 21, 2012, Toyoda filed a complaint against Formosa in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, alleging infringement of eight patents relating to LEDs.

According to the complaint (Toyoda_Gosei_Complaint), the following three patents describe, among other things, “a light-emitting semiconductor device … designed to improve luminous intensity and to obtain a purer blue color”:

U.S. Patent No. 6,005,258 entitled “Light-Emitting Semiconductor Device Using Group III Nitrogen Compound Having Emission Layer Doped with Donor and Acceptor Impurities”;

U.S. Patent No. 6,265,726 entitled “Light-Emitting Aluminum Gallium Indium Nitride Compound Semiconductor Device Having an Improved Luminous Intensity”; and

U.S. Patent No. 7,138,286 entitled “Light-Emitting Semiconductor Device Using Group III Nitrogen Compound” (‘286 Patent).

The complaint describes the following patent as “a light-emitting semiconductor device having an improved metal electrode and semiconductor structure that lowers the driving voltage of the device”:

U.S. Patent No. 5,753,939 entitled “Light-Emitting Semiconductor Device Using a Group III Nitride Compound and Having a Contact Layer upon which an Electrode is Formed”.

The following two patents are described as a “method of manufacturing a semiconductor light-emitting device”:

U.S. Patent No. 6,040,588 entitled “Semiconductor Light-Emitting Device”; and

U.S. Patent No. 6,420,733 entitled “Semiconductor Light-Emitting Device and Manufacturing Method Thereof”.

Finally, the complaint describes the following patents as “’LED['s] ha[ving] a thin highly resistive or insulative layer formed below an electrode pad in order to divert current flow from the region below an electrode pad’ to obtain better current efficiency”:

U.S. Patent No. 6,191,436 entitled “Optical Semiconductor Device”; and

U.S. Patent No. 6,933,169 entitled “Optical Semiconductor Device”.

Toyoda is seeking both injunctive relief and monetary damages.

 

Solar Power / LEDs

Jiawei Technology (USA) et al. v. Adventive Ideas, LLC.

On February 8, 2012, Jiawei filed a complaint for declaratory judgment of invalidity and non-infringement (Jiawei_Complaint) against Adventive in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.  Jiawei is seeking judgment declaring Adventive’s patents invalid and, in the alternative, that they have not been infringed.

The patents at issue are U.S. Patent Nos.:

7,196,477, entitled “Solar Powered Light Assembly to Produce Light of Varying Colors”, describing a garden light which has three different colored LEDs that are activated to produce a varying color light;

7,336,157, entitled “Illuminated Wind Indicator”, which provides for a solar powered visual indicator of wind motion at night by way of an illuminated pendulum assembly in a wind chime;

7,429,827, entitled “Solar Powered Light Assembly to Produce Light of Varying Colors”, which relates to a garden light which has three LEDs that are activated to produce a varying color light;

7,967,465, entitled “Light Device” which describes a solar powered light enclosed in a translucent housing;

8,077,052, entitled “Illuminated Wind Indicator”, which describes a solar powered visual indicator of wind motion at night by way of an illuminated pendulum assembly in a wind chime;

8,089,370, entitled “Illuminated Wind Indicator”, which provides a visual indicator of wind motion at night by way of an illuminated wind chime and associated circuitry; and

8,104,914, entitled “Light Device”, which describes a solar powered light device with at least one power storage device and associated circuitry.

 

Wastewater Treatment

Aero-Stream, LLC v. Septicair Aid, LLC et al.

On February 24, 2012, Aero-Stream filed a complaint for patent infringement (Aero-Stream_Complaint) against Septicair Aid in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Aero-Stream asserts Septicair infringes several of its patents relating to septic wastewater treatment systems by offering for sale a “Quad Diffuser Aeration Kit” and “Economy Diffuser”.

The patents at issue are U.S. Patent Nos.:

7,264,727, entitled “Septic System Remediation Method and Apparatus,” describing an apparatus and method of remediating a failing wastewater treatment system;

7,429,320, entitled “Wastewater Treatment System,” describing an apparatus and method of remediating a failing wastewater treatment system;

7,468,135, entitled “Portable Tank Wastewater Treatment System and Method” describing a portable wastewater treatment system comprising a wastewater holding tank and a generator positioned to provide oxygen, or ozone, or a combination of the two to the interior of the holding tank; and

7,718,067 entitled “Septic System Remediation Method and Apparatus” describing an apparatus and method of remediating a failing wastewater treatment system.

Aero-Stream is seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages.

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

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

December 16th, 2011

Several green patent lawsuits (and one green copyright suit) have been filed in the last several weeks in the areas of LEDs, hybrid vehicles, wastewater treatment, energy management, and biodegradable materials.

 

LEDs

Bluestone Innovations Florida, L.L.C. v. Formosa Epitaxy

Bluestone Innovations (Bluestone), a Florida-based patent licensing company, recently filed a Complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida against Formosa Epitaxy (Formosa), a Taiwanese corporation.

Bluestone alleges that Formosa engaged in the manufacture, importation, offer for sale, and sale of LED semiconductor devices and other optoelectric devices, such as gallium nitride (GaN) LED wafers and chips, and indium gallium nitride (InGaN) LED wafers and chips.

The complaint alleges these activities infringe U.S. Patent Number 6,605,832, entitled “Semiconductor Structures Having Reduced Contact Resistance”.  Bluestone is seeking a permanent injunction and damages, including treble damages and attorney fees.

 

Wastewater Treatment

Polylok, Inc. v. Bear Onsite

A recent post discussed a suit between wastewater treatment rivals Polylok and Bear Onsite in Connecticut in which Polylok asserted infringement of U.S. Patent Number 6,129,837, entitled “Waste water treatment filter including waste water level control alert device” (’837 Patent). 

The ’837 Patent is directed to a filtration device for a waste water treatment tank with a level alert device to provide an alarm when the filter becomes plugged.  The claims are directed to particular means for mounting the alert device to the filter.

Bear Onsite recently responded with a declaratory judgment action (Petition for Declaration of Rights).  Specifically, Bear Onsite is seeking a declaratory judgment of invalidity, unenforceability and non-infringement of the ’837 Patent.

 

Hybrid Vehicles

KGR IP L.L.C. v. Ford Motor Company
KGR IP L.L.C. v. Honda Motor Company

KGR recently filed two complaints in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (KGR_IP-Ford_Complaint; KGR_IP-Honda_Complaint). 

The complaints allege that both Ford and Honda are infringing U.S. Patent Number 6,639,614, entitled “Multi-variate data presentation method using ecologically valid stimuli” (’614 Patent).  The ’614 Patent relates to visual display of data using “ecologically valid” icons.

KGR alleges infringement of the ’614 Patent in the Ford Fusion Hybrid vehicles and Honda vehicles that utilize the Eco Assist function.  KGR is seeking injunctive relief and damages.

 

Fernandez v. Toyota Motor Corporation

Dennis Fernandez, an individual inventor, recently filed a Complaint against Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A and Toyota USA (collectively “Toyota”), alleging patent infringement.
Fernandez alleges Toyota is infringing U.S. Patent Numbers 7,374,003, 7,575,080, and 7,980,341, each entitled “Telematic Method and Apparatus with Integrated Power Source”.

The complaint states that Toyota is using the accused devices in its Prius II hybrid vehicle. The complaint seeks damages and attorney fees.

 

Biomaterials; Recycling & Waste Management

Frito-Lay North America v. Innovia Films Limited

Frito-Lay filed a Complaint against Innovia Films, Inc. (Innovia), a manuafcturer of bio-based films, on November 23, 2011 seeking declaratory relief over Frito-Lay’s ownership of two patents and two patent applications.

The complaint relates to recent actions commenced by Innovia against Frito-Lay in both the U.K. and Europe.  In that litigation, Innovia claims that Frito-Lay breached a confidentiality agreement and used information gained during confidential meetings to develop biodegradable packaging.  Innovia claims the technology led to Frito-Lay’s U.S. Patent Numbers 7,951,436 and 7,943,218 and U.S. Patent Applications 11/848,775 and 12/716,033.

Frito-Lay contends that it did not acquire any technology from Innovia and that development of its degradable bags was conducted independently.  Frito-Lay states that its “scientists and engineers discovered and invented novel flexible film packaging that maintains certain barrier properties and is made up of several layers of films, including a biodegradable ‘bio-based’ layer.”

 

Smart Grid / Energy Management

Opower, Inc. v. Efficiency 2.0, LLC

In a rare clean tech copyright dispute, Opower, Inc. (Opower) recently filed a copyright infringement Suit against Efficiency 2.0, LLC (Efficiency 2.0), a New York energy efficiency software company.

Opower produces Home Energy Reports, paper reports mailed to residents which show their home energy consumption in relation to similarly situated neighbors.  Opower’s Home Energy Reports were registered with the Copyright Office in September 2009 as Registration No. VA0001692228 and in October 2011 as Registration No. TX0007435604.

According to the complaint, Efficiency 2.0′s Energy Savings Reports are nearly identical to Opower’s copyrighted reports.  Opower claims the similarities include “overall layout and blocking, use of open space, use of language, use of font, bolding, accents and color, as well as selection and presentation of specific graphics and information.”

Opower is seeking damages, and a preliminary and permanent injunction barring Efficiency 2.0 from using Opower’s copyrighted reports.

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