Archive for the ‘IP Litigation’ 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.

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.

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.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

May 20th, 2015

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


Energy Storage

Power Regeneration, LLC v. Siemens Corporation et al.

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

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


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

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

The patents-in-suit are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Smart Grid

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

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

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

The complaints accuse each defendant of infringing three patents in a family – U.S. Patent Nos. 7,379,981,  8,700,749, and 8,855,019, each entitled “Wireless communication enabled meter and network.”  The patents-in-suit relate to a self-configuring wireless network including a number of vnodes and VGATES.

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


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

Sunrise Technologies, Inc. v. Selc Ireland Ltd.

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

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

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


Intuitive Building Controls, Inc. v. Control4 Corporation

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

Intuitive Building Controls, Inc. v. AMX LLC

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

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

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

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

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

Jury Verdict for Everlight Knocks Out Nichia Patents

May 13th, 2015


A previous post discussed the declaratory judgment complaint (Everlight-Nichia ComplaintEverlight Electronics filed against Nichia in federal court in Michigan in April 2012.

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

Everlight suffered a setback later that year when the court granted Nichia’s motion to dismiss the inequitable conduct claims.

However, the Taiwanese company scored a big victory recently when the Michigan jury unanimously found multiple claims of the ‘925 and ‘960 Patents invalid.  More particularly, claims 2, 3 and 5 of the ‘925 Patent were found to be invalid due to obviousness, claims 2, 14 and 19 of the ‘960 Patent were found to be invalid due to obviousness, and claims 14 and 19 of the ‘960 Patent were also found invalid for lack of enablement.

The jury declined to find claims 2, 3 or 5 of the ‘925 Patent to be invalid on the additional enablement ground.

While this is an important win for Everlight, it is just one battle in a sprawling patent war between these two LED rivals.  The litigation dates back to 2005 when Nichia first targeted Everlight for patent infringement and extends to various venues around the world.

Nichia has sued an Everlight customer in a Tokyo District Court asserting the Japanese counterpart to the ‘960 Patent (Japanese Patent No. 4350094).  Nichia also filed suit against Everlight in Germany asserting the European counterpart to the ’925 Patent (European Patent No. EP 0 936 682).

In addition to this DJ action, Everlight has filed a number of reexaminations proceedings targeting Nichia’s LED patents.

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

April 29th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expect this case to start up again in state court.