Archive for the ‘IP Litigation’ category

GreenShift Loses Across the Board in Ethanol Patent Case

December 14th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

November 19th, 2014

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

 

LEDs

Cree, Inc. v. Harvatek Corporation et al.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cree, Inc. v. Honeywell International Inc.

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

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

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

Smart Grid

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. EnergyHub, Inc.

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

The complaint (Endeavor complaint part_1Endeavor complaint part_2) accuses EnergyHub of infringing three patents in a family – U.S. Patent Nos. 7,379,981  8,700,749, and 8,855,019, each entitled “Wireless communication enabled meter and network.”  The patents-in-suit relate to a self-configuring wireless network including a number vnodes and VGATES.

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

 

Concentrated Solar Power

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

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

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

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

 

Solar Inverters

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

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

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

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

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

Green Dry Cleaning Solvents

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

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

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

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

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

Water Treatment

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

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

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

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

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

GE Settles Signage LED Patent Suit; Offers Patents for License

November 12th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

September 11th, 2014

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

 

Solar Power

Conlin v. Solarcraft, Inc.

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

The patents-in-suit are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Chemicals

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

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

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

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

Smart Meters

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

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

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

LEDs

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

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

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

The asserted patents are:

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Patent No. 6,806,659, entitled “Multicolored LED lighting method and apparatus”

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

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

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

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

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

 

Seoul Semiconductor Co. v. Curtis International Ltd.

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

The following patents are listed in the complaint:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tesla Resolves Chinese Trademark Dispute (Again, This Time With Cash)

August 14th, 2014

Previous posts (here, here, and here) discussed Tesla’s trademark troubles in China.

As it sought to expand into the Chinese market, the electric car maker encountered a businessman named Zhan Baosheng who owned registrations for the TESLA (or “Te Si La” transliterated) trademark in China in both English and Chinese.

While Zhan’s trademark rights initially blocked Tesla from using the mark there, in early 2014 the company announced that it had resolved the matter though a court decision granting it the right to use the TESLA mark in China.

So Tesla seemed to be in the clear until Mr. Zhan, apparently unsatisfied, decided to sue Tesla for trademark infringement.  He seemed to be in it for the money:  the lawsuit demanded that Tesla stop all sales and marketing activities in China, shut down showrooms and charging facilities, and pay him 23.9 million yuan ($3.85 million) in compensation.

It appears that Zhan finally got his pay day.  Tesla recently said it resolved the dispute – this time via a direct settlement with Zhan rather than relying on the Chinese court system.  The Bloomberg report says a Tesla spokeswoman “declined to discuss financial terms” relating to the deal.

Zhan agreed to settle the dispute “completely and amicably” including consenting to cancellation of his Tesla trademark registrations and applications.   He will also transfer his domain names, including tesla.cn and teslamotors.cn to Tesla.

This is not the first time a U.S. clean tech company has faced IP difficulties in China – American Superconductor has been involved in major copyright and trade secret litigation with Chinese wind turbine maker Sinovel.  Also, Apple and Burberry Group had difficulties with securing their trademark rights in China.

It would be interesting to know why Tesla’s initial Chinese court victory was inadequate and left the door open for Zhan’s subsequent lawsuit.  One clear and timeless lesson we can draw from Tesla’s Chinese trademark troubles is that in China, as in legal and business disputes everywhere, money talks.

Tesla Faces Renewed Trademark Trouble in China

July 25th, 2014

Tesla’s intellectual property is in the news again, but this time it’s a trademark issue.

A previous post reported on Tesla’s trademark problem in China.  Evidently, a businessman named Zhan Baosheng had registered the TESLA (or “Te Si La” transliterated) trademark in China in 2006, in both English and Chinese.

While Zhan’s trademark rights initially blocked Tesla from using the mark there, in early 2014 the company announced that it had resolved the matter though a court decision granting it the right to use the TESLA mark in China.

So Tesla seemed to be in the clear.  But there is renewed uncertainty about the company’s ability to use its brand in China.

Apparently unhappy with the initial result, Mr. Zhan is now suing Tesla for trademark infringement.  According to his lawyer, Zhan is demanding that Tesla stop all sales and marketing activities in China, shut down showrooms and charging facilities, and pay him 23.9 million yuan ($3.85 million) in compensation.

Per my prior post, it seems like Zhan is seeking nothing more than a big pay day, as opposed to protecting legitimate business interests.

The case will be heard on August 5th by the Beijing Third Intermediate Court.

This is not the first time a U.S. clean tech company has faced IP difficulties in China – American Superconductor has been involved in major copyright and trade secret litigation with Chinese wind turbine maker Sinovel.

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

July 9th, 2014

A number of green patent complaints have been filed in the last several months in the areas of energy management software, LEDs, smart meters, vertical axis wind turbines, and wastewater treatment.  This post covers new lawsuits filed from the end of March through the end of June.

 

Energy Management Software

Intercap Capital Partners, LLC  v. BuildingIQ, Inc.

On April 3, 2014, Intercap filed a patent infringement complaint against BuildingIQ in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.  Intercap asserted U.S. Patent No. 8,078,330 (’330 Patent), alleging that the BuildingIQ software of system infringes the ’330 Patent.

Entitled “Automatic energy management and energy consumption reduction, especially in commercial and multi-building systems,” the ’330 Patent is directed to methods of managing energy usage data including monitoring current energy usage of the energy consumption devices in a building, monitoring building temperature, a building humidity, a building COlevel, a weather forecast and a real-time energy price, and initiating a real-time control of each energy consumption device based on the variables in response to a forecast that a new energy usage peak is approaching.

LEDs

Honeywell International Inc. v. Cree, Inc.

Honeywell sued major LED manufacturer Cree for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,373,188 (’188) and Reissue Patent No. RE41,685 (a reissue of U.S. Patent No. 6,666,567).

The ’188 Patent is entitled “Efficient solid-state light emitting device with excited phosphors for producing a visible light output” and directed to and LED having a phosphor layer and a reflector means adjacent to one side of the phosphor layer for reflecting some of the radiation and light emission that exits from the phosphor layer back into the phosphor layer.

The reissue patent is entitled “Light source with non-white and phosphor-based white LED devices, and LCD assembly” and relates to a light source with an LED coupled to the floor of an optical cavity to permit light to be emitted from the base of the LED and a reflective protrusion below the LED to aid in redirecting light forward.

The complaint was filed March 31, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

 

Koninklijke Philips N.V. et al. v. Schreder Lighting LLC et al.

Filed May 27, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Philips’ complaint asserts the following twelve LED patents:

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

U.S. Patent No. 6,234,645, entitled “LED lighting system for producing white light”

U.S. Patent No. 6,234,648, entitled “Lighting system”

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

U.S. Patent No. 6,513,949, entitled “LED/phosphor-LED hybrid lighting systems”

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. 6,692,136, entitled “LED/phosphor-LED hybrid lighting systems”

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

U.S. Patent No. 6,806,659, entitled “Multicolored LED lighting method and apparatus”

U.S. Patent No. 6,972,525, entitled “LED switching arrangement”

U.S. Patent No. 7,274,160, entitled “Multicolored lighting method and apparatus”

According to the complaint, Schreder’s floodlight, street-light, residential and urban area LED lighting products, including the Alura LED, FV32 LED, Hestia LED, Piano, Teceo, Akila, Isla LED, Modullum, Neos LED and Nemo brands for, infringe one or more of the asserted patents.

 

Smart Meters

Sensor-Tech Innovations LLC v. Texas-New Mexico Power Company

Austin, Texas-based Sensor-Tech filed a patent infringement suit against the Texas-New Mexico Power Company (TNMP) for alleged infringement of a patent related to smart meter technology.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Marshall, Texas on June 20, 2014, asserts U.S. Patent No. 6,505,086 (’086 Patent).  Entitled “XML sensor system,” the ’086 Patent is directed to a sensor sommunication system adapted to transmit a sensor data file in XML format.

According to the complaint, TNMP’s advanced metering system infringes at least three claims of the ’086 Patetn.

 

Vertical Axis Wind Turbines

SAWT Inc. et al. v. Joe Moore Construction Inc. et al.

On May 13, 2014 SAWT filed a complaint for patent infringement in federal court in Los Angeles.  SAWT has accused Joe Moore Construction, d/b/a Wind Sun Energy Systems and co-defendant Urban Green Energy of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,967,569 (’569 Patent).

The ’569 Patent is entitled “Vertical shaft wind turbine and method of installing blades therein” and directed to a vertical shaft wind turbine wherein the airfoil of each turbine blade is an asymmetrical camber airfoil, each blade is installed with only the convex surface facing the vertical shaft, and a rotary angle of each blade is between 0 and 15 degrees.

The ’569 Patent is owned by co-plaintiff Shanghai Aeolus Windpower Technology; SAWT is a non-exclusive licensee.  This is an interesting one as it’s rare to see litigation over small (non-utility scale) wind turbines, particularly of the vertical axis type.

Wastewater Treatment

Chaffin v. Braden and LBC Manufacturing

Mark N. Chaffin, an individual, sued LBC Manufacturing for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,932,912, entitled “Wastewater treatment system for residential septic systems” (’912 Patent).

The ’912 Patent is directed to wastewater treatment systems and methods wherein a chlorine supply tube is in communication with a venturi chamber and in constant fluid communication a chlorine supply in a chlorine supply canister.  As recirculating pumped sewage effluent flows through the venturi chamber, chlorine from the supply canister is continuously drawn into the venturi chamber and into a recirculation pipe.

Filed April 16, 2014 in federal court in Victoria, Texas, the complaint alleges that the LBC500 liquid bleach chlorinator infringes the ’912 Patent.

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

June 26th, 2014

A number of green patent complaints have been filed in the last several months in the areas of hybrid electric vehicles, ethanol production, LEDs, water treatment, and exhaust treatment catalysts.  This post covers new lawsuits filed from late 2013 to the end of March 2014.

 

Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Paice LLC v. Ford Motor Company

After major success asserting its patents against Toyota, the HEV development and licensing company Paice is at it again.  On February 19, 2014, Paice sued Ford Motor Company for patent infringement in federal court in Baltimore.

The rather lengthy complaint accuses Ford of infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 7,237,634, 7,104,347, 7,559,388, 8,214,097, and 7,455,134.  These patents are part of a large family tracing priority all the way back to 1999.  Each patent is entitled “Hybrid vehicles” and relates to hybrid vehicles and associated control systems.

In its complaint, Paice lays out the details of, among other things, its collaborative relationship with Ford and how it soured.  The accused products are Ford’s Fusion hybrid and plug-in hybrid, C-Max hybrid and plug-in hybrid, and Lincoln MKZ.

 

Biofuels (Ethanol Production)

GS Cleantech Corporation v. Pacific Ethanol Stockton LLC

GS Cleantech Corporation v. Pacific Ethanol Magic Valley, LLC et al.

GS recently initiated two new lawsuits involving its patented ethanol production processes.  A complaint filed March 17, 2014 in federal court in Sacramento, California accused Pacific Ethanol Stockton of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,601,858, entitled “Method of processing ethanol byproducts and related subsystems” (’858 Patent).

The next day, GS sued Pacific Ethanol Magic Valley in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho.  The Idaho complaint asserted the ’858 Patent as well as U.S. Patent Nos. 8,008,516 and8,283,484, each entitled “Method of processing ethanol byproducts and related subsystems,” and as U.S. Patent No. 8,008,517, entitled “Method of recovering oil from thin stillage.”

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

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

 

LEDs

Luminus Devices, Inc. v. LED Engin, Inc.

Making its first green patent litigation appearance (to my knowledge), Massachusetts based Luminus Devices sued LED Engin in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Filed back in November 2013, the complaint accuses LED Engin of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,170,100 (’100 Patent).  Entitled “Packaging designs for LEDs,” the ’100 Patent is directed to an array of LEDs and an LED package.

The package includes a layer configured so that at least about 75% of the light that that emerges from the LED and impinges on the layer passes through the layer. The layer is disposed such that a distance between the surface of the LED and a surface of the layer nearest to the surface of the LED is from about five microns to about 400 microns.

The accused products are several LED emitters allegedly made and sold by LED Engin.

 

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Cooper Lighting, LLC

On February 6, 2014 Florida LED lighting company Lighting Science Group (LSG) sued rival Cooper Lighting for patent infringement in federal court in Orlando.

The complaint alleges that Cooper infringes U.S. Patent No. 8,201,968 (’968 Patent) by its manufacture and sale of the Halo LED Recessed White Surface Disk Light products.

Entitled “Low profile light,” the ’968 Patent is directed to a luminaire including a heat spreader and a heat sink disposed outboard of the heat spreader, an outer optic securely retained relative to the heat spreader and/or the heat sink, and an LED light source.

 

Water Treatment

Envirogen Technologies, Inc. v. Maxim Construction Corporation

Envirogen Technologies, a Texas company that makes water purification systems, recently filed a lawsuit for breach of contract and patent infringement against Maxim Construction.

Filed March 25, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the complaint lists three patents – U.S. Patent Nos. 7,309,436 (’436 Patent), 6,878,286 (’286 Patent) and 7,041,223 (’223 Patent).

Entitled “High efficiency ion exchange system for removing contaminants from water,” the ’286 and ’223 Patents are related and are directed to a fixed bed ion exchange water purification system that combines features of single fixed bed ion exchange systems with those of a moving bed system.

The ’436 Patent is entitled “Process for removing perchlorate ions from water streams” and directed to methods and systems for removing perchiorate from water.

According to the complaint, Maxim failed to make all payments under a contract to purchase an Envirogen water purification system, and therefore its use of the system is unlicensed and infringing.

 

Exhaust Treatment Catalysts

EmeraChem Holdings, LLC v. Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.

EmeraChem Holdings, a Tennessee-based company that creates catalysts for gas and liquid fuels, sued Volkswagen in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee on March 31, 2014.

The complaint asserts infringement of U.S. Patent Nos.:

 5,451,558, entitled “Process for the reaction and absorption of gaseous air pollutants, apparatus therefor and method of making the same”;

5,599,758, entitled “Reduction of absorbed nitrogen oxides by reaction with gas flow containing hydrogen and/or carbon monoxide”;

5,953,911, entitled “Regeneration of catalyst/absorber”;

6,037,307 , entitled “Catalyst/sorber for treating sulfur compound containing effluent”: and

7,951,346, entitled “Methods and systems for reducing particulate matter in a gaseous stream”.

According to the complaint, Volkswagen’s diesel powered vehicles equipped with exhaust treatment systems, NOx storage catalyst, and other exhaust treatment catalysts infringe one or more of the patents.

Federal Circuit Gives GE LED Patents New Life in Suit Against AgiLight

May 30th, 2014

 

A previous post discussed AgiLight‘s summary judgment win at the district court level where the LED lighting developer’s products were found not to infringe two GE patents, U.S. Patent Nos.7,633,055 (’055 Patent) and 7,832,896 (’896 Patent)

Two other GE patents  - 7,160,140 entitled “LED string light engine” (’140 Patent) and 7,520,771 entitled “LED string light engine and devices that are illuminated by the string light Engine”(’771 Patent) - had previously been found not infringed in an earlier summary judgment decision.

The ’055 and ’896 Patents are entitled “Sealed light emitting diode assemblies including annular gaskets and method of making same” and “LED light engine,” respectively, and relate to LED string light engine structures and assembly methods.

GE appealed, and a recent decision by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment with respect to the ’896 Patent (and the two other GE patents) and affirmed summary judgment with regard to the ’055 Patent.

The Federal Circuit found the district court’s interpretation of the claim term “IDC connector” in the ’140 and ’771 Patents was incorrect and unduly narrow.  The district court limited it to a more specialized connector having four electrical terminals and a two-part housing that snaps together so the terminals pierce the conductor’s insulation.

The term should have been construed consistent with its ordinary meaning of “a connector that displaces insulation surrounding an insulated conductor to make electrical contact with the conductor.”

The issue for the ’896 Patent was whether the claim term “substantially ellipsoidal inner profile” means the entire inner profile of the LED lens must be substantially ellipsoidal or only a portion is substantially ellipsoidal.  The district court held that the entirety of the lens must be substantially ellipsoidal, and AgiLight’s product did not infringe because it included non-ellipsoidal, conical portions.

The Federal Circuit disagreed, observing that in the only embodiment disclosed in the ’896 Patent (in Figure 7, reproduced below) the bottom half of the lens is not ellipsoidal:

According to the patent, the inner profile 152 of Figure 7 is ellipsoidal.  It is undisputed that only a portion of the inner profile 152 (the part above the line at 152) is substantially ellipsoidal.  The bottom half of that inner profile (the portion below the line at 152) is not arguably substantially ellipsoidal.

Thus, there was a genuine factual dispute as to whether the AgiLight product includes a “substantially ellipsoidal profile” and summary judgment was improper:

A key claim term at issue with respect to the ’055 Patent was an “annular gasket,” which the district court had interpreted to require an opening in its center that is capable of sealing off its center area.

In the the ’055 Patent, this feature is shown in Figure 4, where the annular gasket 32 surrounds LED 16 before a generally hollow member (not shown) is sealed against the top of the annular gasket to fully enclose the LED.

The court determined that the AgiLight lens (shown below) is not an “annular gasket” because the inner surface lacks an “opening” as required by the court’s interpretation of the term.  The Federal Circuit agreed, noting that a concave inner surface cannot be an opening.  So GE will get another opportunity to prove infringement of three the four patents asserted against AgiLight.

In GE Wind Patent Fight Federal Circuit Affirms Wilkins Inventorship Story is Incredible

May 22nd, 2014

In previous posts (hereherehere, and here), I discussed a significant ancillary battle in the GE-Mitsubishi wind patent war.  In this entertaining sideshow, GE and a former employee, Thomas Wilkins, have been fighting over ownership of two of the patents involved in the larger litigation.

The patent-at-issue in this case is U.S. Patent No. 6,921,985 (’985 Patent).  The ’985 Patent is directed to a wind turbine that includes a blade pitch control system and a turbine controller coupled with the blade pitch control system.  To increase the reliability of the turbine’s power supply, the turbine controller causes the blade pitch control system to vary pitch in response to transitions between different power sources.

After Wilkins brought a lawsuit to correct inventorship, Mitsubishi intervened in the suit.  The case aroused Mitsubishi’s interest because the ’985 Patent is one of several asserted by GE against Mitsubishi in at least two lawsuits.

After the district court decided that Wilkins was not a co-inventor of the invention claimed in the ’985 Patent, Mitsubishi and Wilkins appealed.

In a recent decision, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court ruling.

To overcome the presumption that the named inventors on a patent are correct, an alleged co-inventor must prove his inventive contribution by clear and convincing evidence.  The putative inventor can’t rely on his testimony alone.  Rather, there must be evidence to corroborate his testimony.

The problem for Wilkins was that the district court found his testimony on inventorship not credible, and the proffered corroborating witness testimony fell short because the witnesses either relied on Wilkins or failed to provide ample basis for their opinions.

On appeal, Wilkins acknowledged his credibility problems but argued that the instances in which his credibility was impeached only extended to “immaterial and tangential points.”  The appeals court disagreed:

Based on the trial record, we find no clear error in the district court’s assessment that the substance of Wilkins’s testimony, which addressed central issues such as conception and contribution, was inconsistent and purposefully evasive.  We agree with the district court’s conclusion that Wilkins left his case with no credibility.

As it turned out, this wasn’t an issue of insufficient corroborating evidence of inventorship.  Rather, as the court explained, the document Wilkins sent to GE’s German engineers, which he argued demonstrated his conception of the invention, did not disclose any elements of the claimed invention:

Notwithstanding that the record is devoid of proof that the German engineers relied on anything discussed in that document as part of their conception . . . our review of the record verifies that the document does not disclose any of the subject matter claimed in the ’985 patent.

In fact, the document in question “does not even depict the key feature Wilkins claims to have invented, i.e., a UPS powering the wind turbine’s three controllers.”

Therefore, there was no credible evidence of Wilkins’s conception:  ”Wilkins provided no credible testimony for that document to corroborate” and “without credible testimony from Wilkins, there was nothing to corroborate.”

This chapter in the GE-Mitsubishi patent litigation appears to be closed.