Archive for the ‘LED Patents’ category

The Top Green IP Stories of 2013

January 13th, 2014

Before we turn to new green IP issues as they unfold in 2014, here is a look back at some of the top stories from 2013.

 

No. 7:  Green Patent PR

Clean tech is competitive, and PR is one of the tools used to stand out in a competitive industry.  But who would have thought PR around green patents could be so prevalent and contentious?  After DuPont sued Heraeus for alleged infringement of a patent directed to solar paste, the chemical giant put out a press release about filing the suit and the problem of IP theft in clean tech.

Heraeus counterclaimed for unfair competition and later threatened a separate lawsuit over the press release.  DuPont then filed a declaratory judgment action asking an Oregon federal court to declare that the company’s press release and customer letters about its patent infringement suit against Heraeus do not violate unfair competition laws.

My research indicates that clean tech companies engage in a substantial amount of PR around patent matters, with the clean tech industry generating the fifth highest number of patent-focused press releases.  DuPont’s disputed press release notwithstanding, the vast majority of clean tech industry press releases relate to patent prosecution.

 

No. 6:  Boston University Leads LED Lit

LED patent litigation continued to grow in 2013.  Leading the way this past year was the Trustees of Boston University, which sued dozens of defendants including AU Optronics, BlackBerry Corporation, Dell, Fujifilm, HTC, Eastman Kodak, Olympus, Sharp, and Sony.

The patent in these suits is U.S. Patent No. 5,686,738, 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.

 

No. 5:  Criminalizing Greenwashing 2.0

As discussed in this space, a new greenwashing paradigm has emerged where cases are brought by or on behalf of commercial consumers and involve B-to-B communications and misrepresentations (as opposed to advertising of consumer products directed to individual consumers).

In 2013 we began to see a new species of greenwashing 2.0 case:  criminal actions brought by governmental authorities for environmental crimes and fraud (see, e.g., here and here).

In one case a Colorado company called Executive Recycling and some of its officers were sentenced to imprisonment and fines for falsely representing that the company would dispose of all electronic waste (mostly cathode ray tubes) in an environmentally friendly manner in the United States when it instead sold the electronic waste it received to brokers for export overseas to China and other countries.

In another, the feds prosecuted companies for allegedly generating and selling fraudulent Renewable Energy Credits (RINs), and Cargill separately brought a civil action involving similar allegations.

 

No. 4:  Sinovel Faces Criminal Indictment in US

The AMSC- Sinovel copyright and trade secret dispute involving wind turbine control systems was big news in 2012, but legally speaking, mostly civil.

That changed in 2013 when the U.S. Department of Justice filed an indictment in federal court in Wisconsin alleging that Sinovel, two of its employees, and a former AMSC employee conspired to commit trade secret theft and criminal copyright infringement.

The indictment said the purpose of the alleged conspiracy was to illegally obtain proprietary source code, software, equipment designs and technical drawings relating to AMSC’s wind turbine control systems., thereby cheating AMSC out of more than $800,000,000.

 

No. 3:  Greenwashing Costs LED Maker $21 Million

In an indication of how seriously the American justice system may now be taking greenwashing, a Los Angeles federal court enjoined LED maker Lights of America (LOA) and ordered the company to pay $21,165,863.47.

This followed a decision holding that LOA violated Section 5 of the FTC Act by making false claims about LED lamps replacing certain wattage incandescent lamps and about the lifetime of the company’s LED lamps.

The case was brought by the FTC, America’s competition and consumer watchdog agency.  The FTC was to receive the $21 million, and the court directed the FTC to deposit the money into a redress fund to be used for consumer redress.

 

No 2:  Burgeoning Biofuels Battles

While The Gevo-Butamax litigation was a major story of 2012, notable both for its size and as the first foray of big oil into biofuels patent suits, biofuels patent litigation in general makes the 2013 list.

Not only did Gevo and Butamax continue their “patent war over who can make biobutanol,” with big decisions starting to come down, but Danish enzyme maker Novozymes also was active in the courts, Danisco scored a big summary judgment win against Novozymes, GreenShift expanded its ethanol production patent enforcement campaign, and Neste’s biodiesel patent suits changed direction with the court staying the suits pending reexamination of the asserted patents.

 

No. 1:  Solar Patent Surge

Since the start of green patent history (admittedly a very brief era in the cosmic scheme of things), as recorded by the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index (CEPGI), fuel cells dominated other technologies and perennially led the green patent rankings.

That changed in 2013.  In its first-quarter report the CEPGI noted that the 217 solar patents granted were just one behind fuel cells’ 218, “the smallest differential on record [suggesting] that Solar patents are poised to pass Fuel Cell patents.”

As predicted, the Q2 report showed solar patents beating out fuel cell patents for the first time, surging ahead with 246 solar patents granted in the second quarter, with fuel cell patents in second place at 209.

According to CEPGI, “Solar patents’ quarterly win makes clear that innovation in this sector continues at a rapid pace despite the failures and consolidations of solar firms across that board that dominate cleantech media reports.”

 

Correction:  The e-alerts for the previous post announcing the opening of Green Patent Law indicated that they were sent from my old email address.  I think that problem has been corrected.  My new email address is elane@greenpatentlaw.com. 

 

 

 

 

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

November 8th, 2013

A number of green patent complaints have been filed in the last several weeks in the areas of biofuels production, recycled food service products, LEDs, reusable diapers, water conservation, and gas conversion technology.

 

Biofuels

Novozymes A/S v. Boli Bioproducts USA, LLC

Filed September 11, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Danish corporation Novozymes’ complaint accuses Boli Bioproducts, a Missouri company, of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,255,084 (’084 Patent).

The ’084 Patent is entitled “Thermostable glucoamylase” and directed to an isolated glucoamylase enzyme which has higher thermal stability than prior glucoamylases.  The patent also claims starch conversion processes using the enzyme. 

The accused product is a glucoamylase enzyme called BOLI GA 130, used for producing glucose from starch in fuel ethanol production and other industrial processes.

 

Recycled, Compostable Food Service Products

Eco-Products, Inc. v. World Centric

Eco-Products, a Boulder, Colorado, company that makes food service products such as cups, containers, plates, and utensils, from renewable and recycled resources, has asserted four design patents against competitor World Centric.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. D688,552, D684,050, D684,465 and D684859, each entitled “Food container.”

The complaint, filed September 11, 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, alleges that World Centric’s “Fiber Compost-A-Pack” product infringes the asserted patents.

 

Reusable Diapers

Kanga Care LLC v. GoGreen Enterprises LLC

In this lawsuit between Colorado competitors in the reusable diaper space, Kanga Care sued GoGreen Enterprises for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,425,483 (’483 Patent).

The ’483 Patent is entitled “Double gusset cloth diaper along with method for making the same” and directed to a reusable diaper including an exterior panel having a surrounding outer edge margin, an interior panel comprising micro-chamois material and joined to the outer edge margin, and an absorbent pad removably insertable between the interior and exterior panels.

The patented diaper has a first gusset diaper to form a first seal between the inner surface and the legs of the user and a second gusset attached proximate the first gusset.

Kanga Care’s complaint was filed October 11, 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, and the accused produts are GoGreen’s Champ cloth diapers using dual gusset technology.

 

Water Conservation

D.S. Magic Tech LLC v. Green Light Energy Conservation LLC

D.S. Magic Tech, a New York corporation that installs and distributes water conservation products, sued Green Light for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,511,347 (’347 Patent).

The ’347 Patent is entitled “Tamper-resistant water flow restriction system” and directed to a flow restrictor assembly and method for installing the assembly in a  shower.  The invention prevents tampering by concealing the flow restrictor assembly behind a shower wall, attached directly to a water supply line.

The complaint was filed in federal court in Brooklyn, New York on October 8, 2013, and accuses Green Light of selling flow restrictor assemblies and related services that infringe the ’347 Patent.

 

Gas Conversion

Sasol North America, Inc. v. GTLpetrol LLC

Sasol North America (Sasol) is a Houston corporation, and part of South African company Sasol Technology.  Sasol designs and operates gas-to-liquid (GTL) plants for converting natural gas to higher value liquid hydrocarbons such as diesel.

On October 3, 2013 Sasol filed a declaratory judgment action in federal court in Houston, Texas for a judgment that it does not infringe U.S. Patent No. 6,534,551 (’551 Patent), to which GTLpetrol has license rights, and that the ’551 Patent is invalid.

‘The ’551 Patent is entitled “Process and apparatus for the production of synthesis gas” and directed to a process for the production of synthesis gas from a hydrocarbon fuel and steam and/or oxygen where at least part of the required steam is provided by heat exchange against exhaust gas from a gas turbine driving an air separation unit (ASU), and the ASU supplys at least part of the oxygen.

According to the complaint, GTLpetrol met with Sasol about the possibility of partnering on construction of a GTL plant in the United States, but Sasol was unimpressed with the smaller company’s technology proposals and eventually terminated discussions.

Almost two years later, the complaint says, GTLpetrol sent Sasol a cease and desist letter referring to the ’551 Patent and alleging misappropriation of trade secrets.  That letter led to this lawsuit by Sasol.

 

LEDs

Nichia Corporation v. Everlight Electronics Co.

On September 11, 2013 Nichia sued Everlight Electronics in federal court in Marshall, Texas for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,432,589 (’589 Patent).  The complaint alleges that Everlight’s LED model 61-238/RSGBB7C-B02/ET infringes the ’589 Patent.

The ’589 Patent is directed to a semiconductor device capable of preventing an adhesive for die bonding from flowing to a wire bonding area.  The semiconductor device includes a housing wherein the wall is formed to extend across the bottom surface of a recess so as to divide the surface of the first lead electrode into a die bonding area and a wire bonding area.

This is not the first lawsuit between these LED rivals (see, e.g., here).

 

Trustees of Boston University LED lawsuits

Boston University launched a huge series of patent infringement lawsuits on September 20, 2013 in federal court in Boston.  There are about 35 new suits - too many to list and upload all the complaints, though they are all very similar and all assert the same patent.  Here are a couple of exemplary complaints:  BU – Acer Complaint; BU – Canon Complaint.

The patent in these suits is U.S. Patent No. 5,686,738, 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.

Other defendants include AU Optronics, BlackBerry Corporation, Dell, Fujifilm, HTC, Eastman Kodak, Olympus, Sharp, and Sony.  The accused products include digital cameras, smart phones, and other personal electronic devices.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

September 13th, 2013

There have been a number of green patent complaints filed in the last several weeks in the areas of biofuels, LEDs, and smart grid.

 

Biofuels

GS Cleantech Corporation v. Aemetis, Inc. et al.

GS Cleantech Corporation v. Homeland Energy Solutions, LLC

GS Cleantech Corporation v. Little Sioux Corn Processors, LLP

GS Cleantech Corporation v. Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy, LLC

GS recently fired off several new lawsuits involving its patented ethanol production processes.  A complaint filed August 14, 2013 in federal court in Fresno, California accused Aemetis Advanced Fuels of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,601,858, entitled “Method of processing ethanol byproducts and related subsystems” (’858 Patent).

The other lawsuits, against Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (Southwest Iowa Complaint), Little Sioux Corn Processors (Little Sioux Complaint), and Homeland Energy Solutions (Homeland Energy Complaint), were filed in July and August in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. 

The asserted patents in these complaints are the ’858 Patent, U.S. Patent Nos. 8,008,516 and 8,283,484, each entitled “Method of processing ethanol byproducts and related subsystems,” as well as U.S. Patent No. 8,008,517, entitled “Method of recovering oil from thin stillage.” 

GS also asserted U.S. Patent No. 8,168,037, entitled “Method and systems for enhancing oil recovery from ethanol production byproducts,” against Homeland Energy Solutions. 

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

Trustees of Boston University v. Hewlett-Packard Co.

Trustees of Boston University v. Vyrian, Inc.

Trustees of Boston University v. Sierra IC, Inc.

In August Boston University initiated some new lawsuits in federal court in Boston, continuing its patent enforcement campaign against various LED makers and electronics manufacturers.  The complaints again assert U.S. Patent No. 5,686,738 (’738 Patent) (HP Complaint; Vyrian Complaint; Sierra Complaint) . 

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 various LED devices and products.

 

Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Altair Engineering, Inc. et al.

Philips sued Altair in federal court in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin requesting a declaratory judgment that U.S. Patent No. 7,049,761 (’761 Patent) is invalid and unenforceable and that Philips’ LED-based replacement tube products do not infringe the patent. 

The ’761 Patent is entitled “Light tube and power supply circuit” and directed to a light tube for a fluorescent light fixure having a plurality of light emitting diodes within the bulb.  According to the complaint, Altair has been trying to get Philips to take a license to the ’761 Patent. 

The complaint also charges Altair with a Lanham Act violation for making false or misleading representations that the ’761 is a “foundational” patent and only companies that have licensed the patent can make LED-based replacement tubes for fluorescent lighting fixtures.

 

Smart Grid

Emerson Electric Co. et al. v. Sipco LLC et al.

In what could prove to be an important case, Emerson is taking on a major clean tech non-practicing entity in Sipco LLC (and the closely related if not identical IPCo), an Atlanta patent licensing and assertion company that holds a number of patents, many relating to remote monitoring and control systems.

Filed in federal court in Atlanta on July 31, 2013, the complaint requests a declaratory judgment of invalidity and non-infringement of at least one claim of each of eight Sipco and IPCo patents.

The listed patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,437,692, 6,914,8937,103,511, 7,697,4928,013,7326,044,062, 6,249,516 and 8,000,314, which relate to remote monitoring and control systems.

According to the complaint, Emerson subsidiary Rosemount received a subpoena from Sipco requesting information on products including various wireless communication protocol-enable devices such as Zigbee, WirelessHART, ISA-100, Z-Wave, EnOcean and JenNet.

Sipco has sued utilities and various smart grid players that make smart meters, EV charging stations, building automation systems, and other energy management solutions (see, e.g., previous posts here, here, and here).

 

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.

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

August 5th, 2013

I will catch up on the new green patent lawsuits filed in the last few months with a two-part green patent complaint update.  The first part covers May through mid-June, which saw several new green patent complaints in the areas of biofuels, fuel recycling, smart grid, and LEDs, and other energy efficient lighting.

 

Biofuels

GS Cleantech Corp. v. Guardian Energy, LLC

GS Cleantech recently filed suit against Guardian Energy in federal court in Minnesota, alleging infringement of four patents relating to ethanol production. 

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 filed June 7, 2013, Guardian 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.

 

 Fuel Recycling

Yellow Dog Technologies, LLC v. Fuel Recyclers Arizona LLC

On May 15, 2013, Yellow Dog filed a patent infringement suit against Fuel Recylers, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,165,781 (’781 Patent).

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, alleges that the fuel pump controllers used by Fuel Recyclers to provide automotive defueling services infringe claims 1 and 16 of the ’781 Patent.

The ’781 Patent is entitled “Fuel recovery” and directed to fuel pump controllers and software for operation of a fuel pump of a combustion engine so it pumps a predefined amount of fuel in the fuel line directly to a drain conduit.

 

LEDs

Formosa Epitaxy Inc. v. Lexington Luminance LLC

On May 3, 2013 Formosa Epitaxy sued Lexington Luminance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts for a declaratory judgment that Formosa does not infringe Lexington’s U.S. Patent No. 6,936,851 (’851 Patent) and that the ’851 Patent is invalid.

The complaint refers to Lexington’s prior patent infringement suit against Google in which it is asserting that certain Google products containing LED chips and wafers manaufactured by Formosa infringe the ’851 Patent.

The ’851 Patent is entitled “Semiconductor light-emitting device and method for manufacturing the same” and is directed to LEDs having textured districts on the substrate such that inclined layers guide extended defects to designated gettering centers in the trench region where the defects combine with each other.  This structure reduces the defect density of the LEDs.

 

Trustees of Boston University v. Arrow Electronics, Inc. et al.

BU continued its patent enforcement campaign against various LED makers and electronics manufacturers with another lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston on May 3, 2013.  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 electronics that include certain Samsung LED devices.

 

Star Co. LED Technologies, LLC v. Sharp Corp. et al.

Star Co. LED sued Sharp, Sony, and Modia Home Theatre Store for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,964,489, entitled “Device for producting an image” (’489 Patent).

Filed May 17, 2013 in federal court in Marshall, Texas, the complaint alleges that certain LED televisions manufactured, imported and sold by the defendants use LED and LCD technologies that infringe the ’489 Patent.

The ’489 Patent is directed to an LED device for background lighting in which an optical device for focusing and scattering light is arranged between the light source and the image reproduction apparatus.   A matrix point is formed by a number of LEDs, with four LEDs forming one matrix point and two green LEDs and two red LEDs provided for each matrix point.

 

Plastic Inventions and Patents, Inc. v. JS LED Technology Corp.

On June 19, 2013 Plastic Inventions and Patents (PIP) sued JS LED in the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,114,830 (’830 Patent).

The ’830 Patent is entitled “LED Replacement for fluorescent lighting” and directed to a tubular LED lighting unit with a reflective coating.

According to the complaint, JS LED’s web site offers for sale LED replacements for fluorescent tube lighting, including the model JE-T8-4C15, that infringe the ’830 Patent.

 

Energy Efficient Lighting

Richmond v. Walgreen Co.

Simon Nicholas Richmond filed suit against Walgreens for alleged infringement of three U.S. patents relating to a solar power lighting assembly.

The asserted lighting assembly patents are all part of the same family and consist of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,196,477, 7,429,827 and 8,362,700, each entitled “Solar powered light assembly to produce light of varying colors.” 

Filed May 6, 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the complaint alleges that Walgreens is infringing the asserted patents by selling the Living Solutions brand Solar Fiber Optic Garden Snake solar-powered garden light.

 

Walton v. Solar Energy USA, Inc.

On June 12, 2013, Randal Walton filed a patent infringement suit against Solar Energy USA in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The asserted patents are all part of the same family and consist of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,178,944, 7,390,106 and 7,748,871, each entitled “Lighting apparatus” and directed to enhanced illumination lamps utilizing low wattage fluorescent tubes having reflective surfaces for focusing otherwise lost light toward a target illumination area.

According to the complaint, Solar Energy’s T-5 lighting fixture adaptors infringe the lighting apparatus patents.

 

Smart Grid

 Allure Energy, Inc. v. Nest Labs, Inc. et al.

Allure Energy, a Texas company that provides home environment and energy management products, sued Nest Labs for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,442,695 (’695 Patent).

Filed May 14, 2013 in federal court in Lufkin, Texas, the complaint alleges that Nest’s Learning Thermostat infringes the ’695 Patent.

The ’695 Patent is entitled “Auto-adaptable energy management apparatus” and directed to a smart thermostat device.

Nest has been involved in a high profile patent suit with Honeywell in which it scored some major initial victories in reexaminations of Honeywell’s patents.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

May 6th, 2013

 

LED lighting remains the hottest area of green patent litigation, with several complaints filed in the last several weeks.  Green patent complaints were recently filed in the areas of advanced batteries and solar powered lighting as well.

 

Advanced Batteries

Celgard, LLC v. SK Innovation Co., Ltd.

Celgard is a North Carolina company that manufactures specialty membranes and separators for lithium ion batteries.  On April 26, 2013, Celgard filed a patent infringement complaint against SK Innovation (SK) in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The complaint alleges that SK is directly infringing and inducing infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,432,586 (’586 Patent) by selling lithium ion battery separators to its customers knowing that the separators will be incorporated into finished lithium ion batteries.

The ’586 Patent is entitled “Separator for a high energy rechargeable lithium battery” and directed to a separator including a ceramic composite layer and a polyolefinic microporous layer.  The ceramic layer has a matrix material and is adapted to block dendrite growth and prevent electronic shorting.

Celgard asserted the ’586 Patent against Sumitomo in February.

 

Solar Powered Lighting

Richmond v. Lumisol Electrical Ltd. et al.

On March 27, 2013, Simon Nicholas Richmond filed suit against a number of defendants including Lumisol Electrical, Ningbo Hangshun Electrical, and Costco for alleged infringement of three U.S. patents relating to a solar power lighting assembly and one patent relating to a wind indicator illuminated by solar power. 

The asserted lighting assembly patents are part of the same family and include U.S. Patent Nos. 7,196,477, 7,429,827 and 8,362,700, each entitled “Solar powered light assembly to produce light of varying colors.”  The fourth patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,089,370, entitled “Illuminated wind indicator.”

The accused products include the Color-Changing Sun and Moon Solar Stake Path Light sold under the brand name Celestial Series Sun and Moon Light.

 

LEDs

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Cree, Inc.

Florida LED lighting company Lighting Science Group (LSG) recently sued North Carolina-based Cree for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,201,968, entitled “Low profile light” (’968 Patent).

Filed April 10, 2013 in federal court in Orlando, the LSG complaint alleges that Cree infringes at least claims 1-6, 9, 14, 17-20 and 22 of the ’968 Patent by its manufacture and sale of the T67 LED Downlight product.

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.

 

Nicholas Holiday, Inc. v. 1 Energy Solutions, Inc.

On April 1, 2013, Nicholas Holiday brought a declaratory judgment action against 1 Energy Solutions (1 Energy) in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. 

The patent at issue is 1 Energy’s U.S. Patent No. 7,045,965 (’965 Patent), granted in 2006, and issued as a reissue patent on January 1, 2013.  The ’965 Patent is entitled “LED light module and series connected light modules” and relates to a more reliable light module having LEDs connected in parallel for use in light strings such as Christmas lights.

According to the complaint, Nicolas Holiday has intervening rights because it began making and selling various light string sets in 2008, including the Energy Smart LED C-5 and the Energy Smart 50 LED Colorite Miniature Lights light string products. 

Nicholas Holiday is requesting a declaratory judgment that the reissue patent is invalid, its products do not infringe the reissue patent, and that it may continue to make, use and sell its LED light string products.

 

Relume Corporation Trust v. Swarco America, Inc. et al.

Relume filed a patent infringement complaint against Swarco and Philips Lumileds on March 27, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.  The complaint asserts RE 42,161, entitled “Power supply for light emitting diode array” (’161 Reissue), which is a reissue of U.S. Patent No. 5,661,645.

The ’161 Reissue is directed to a power supply apparatus and system for providing power to LEDs, particularly LED array traffic signals.  The accused products are are Swarco’s FUTURLED ITE traffic signal modules.

 

Trustees of Boston University v. Amazon.com.

On May 2, 2013, Boston University (BU) sued Amazon in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.  The complaint 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.

BU allegs that certain Kindle Paperwhite and Fire devices contain infringing LEDs.

 

Jam Strait, Inc. v. Osram Sylvania, Inc.

A Mississippi company called Jam Strait recently sued Osram Sylvania in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana for alleged infringement of a patent relating to LEDs used in motor vehicles.

Filed April 29, 2013, the complaint asserts that Sylvania’s 168/194/2825 LED light infringes U.S. Patent No. 6,786,625 (’625 Patent).

The ’625 Patent is entitled “LED light module for vehicles” and directed to an LED lamp module for use in vehicle tail lights.  According to the ’625 Patent, the module has integrated dual element control circuitry, voltage and current control circuitry, brightness enhancement circuitry, and LED circuitry built in to produce a bright, reliable, long life, energy efficient LED lamp that fits all vehicles.

Citing Pastry Precedents Court Rules Agilight Does Not Infringe GE LED Patents

April 11th, 2013

 

A previous post reported on GE’s patent infringement suit against AgiLight asserting several patents relating to LED string light engine structures and assembly methods. 

In a recent decision the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio granted AgiLight’s motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims of two patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 7,633,055 (’055 Patent) and 7,832,896 (’896 Patent).

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.

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

GE argued that the blue element in Figure 1 below meets the “annular gasket” element because it is brought into direct sealing contact with a hollow opening (or socket) in the tooling mold to seal off the center of the opening.

The court disagreed because the AgiLight device has multiple openings and GE’s argument would encompass any concave structure, citing precedents more likely to be found at a pâtisserie than a semiconductor fab:

This interpretation goes too far.  First, even accepting GE’s argument, AgiLight’s design has multiple openings in a single blue element to house LEDs, not “an opening.”  Second, under GE’s understanding, the term “opening” would be synonymous with the inside of any concave surface.  The Court declines to give “opening” such a strained meaning.  Simply put, a croissant is not a donut.

On the ’896 Patent, the claim term at issue was a “substantially ellipsoidal inner profile” to increase the spread of the LED’s light.  The court held this feature was lacking from the accused device because it has important portions that are conical, not ellipsoidal:

The Court finds the “substantially ellipsoidal inner profile” lacking from AgiLight’s designs.  In particular, to the sides of what is arguably an ellipsoidal portion of AgiLight’s lens appears a portion that is conical, and not ellipsoidal.  The Sasian Declaration, which is unrebutted, explains that “[i]t is through the use of all three portions [spherical, cylindrical, and conical] of the inner surface of the lens that the lens used in the AgiLight products widens the pattern of light rays emitted by the LED over which the lens is placed.”  Given the importance of the conical portions of AgiLight’s lens the Court finds that the entirety of the lens cannot be considered substantially ellipsoidal.

Accordingly, the court granted AgiLight’s motion for summary judgment that it does not infringe the ’055 and ’896 Patents.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

March 28th, 2013

In the last month several green patent complaints were filed in the fields of LEDs, advanced batteries and smart grid.

 

LEDs

Bayco Products, Inc. v. Philips Intellectual Property & Standards

Bayco Products (Bayco), a Texas company that makes lighting products including LED flashlights, brought a declaratory judgment action against Philips requesting a judgment that three Philips patents are invalid and/or not infringed.

Filed February 26, 2013 in federal court in Dallas, Texas, the complaint alleges that Philips is “seeking to exact ill-deserved royalty payments” from Bayco in connection with its XPP-5450 Series Dual Function Headlamps.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent No. 6,234,648, entitled “Lighting system,” U.S. Patent No. 6,250,774, entitled “Luminaire” and U.S. Patent No. 6,692,136, entitled “LED/phosphor-LED hybrid lighting systems.”

 

Trustees of Boston University v. Seoul Semiconductor, Ltd.

Trustees of Boston University v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.

In October of 2012, Boston University (BU) sued Korean LED maker Seoul Semiconductor (Seoul) in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.  The original complaint was covered here and asserted 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.

BU’s second amended complaint, filed March 6, 2013, adds U.S. Patent No. 6,953,703, entitled “Method of making a semiconductor device with exposure of sapphire substrate to activated nitrogen.”

The accused devices include gallium nitride thin film LEDs and LEDs made by exposing a sapphire substrate to activated nitrogen and depositing Group III nitride semiconductor material.

BU also asserted the ’738 Patent against Samsung in a complaint filed in the District of Massachusetts on March 21, 2013.

 

Advanced Batteries

Celgard, LLC v. Sumitomo Chemical Company, Ltd.

Celgard is a North Carolina company that manufactures specialty membranes and separators for lithium ion batteries.  On February 22, 2013, Celgard filed a patent infringement complaint against Sumitomo Chemical Company (Sumitomo) in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The complaint alleges that Sumitomo is inducing infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,432,586 (’586 Patent) by selling lithium ion battery separators to its customers knowing that the separators will be incorporated into finished lithium ion batteries.

The ’586 Patent is entitled “Separator for a high energy rechargeable lithium battery” and directed to a separator including a ceramic composite layer and a polyolefinic microporous layer.  The ceramic layer has a matrix material and is adapted to block dendrite growth and prevent electronic shorting.

 

Smart Grid

Electric Power Group, LLC v. Alstom, S.A.

In July of 2012 Electric Power Group (EPG), a Pasadena, California, developer and distributor of electric grid monitoring solutions sued the French conglomerate Alstom and its U.S. division Alstom Grid in the Central District of California for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,060,259 (’259 Patent).

The ’259 Patent is entitled “Wide-area, real-time monitoring and visualization system” and directed to a wide-area real-time performance monitoring system for monitoring and assessing dynamic stability of an electric power grid.

EPG filed a first amended complaint against Alstom on February 19, 2013 in which it added a claim for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,233,843, entitled “Real-time performance monitoring and management system.”  The accused products are Alstom’s “PhasorPoint” and “e-terravision” solutions alone or in combination with other wide area measurement systems-based smart grid offerings.

Green Patents for Sale: Illumitex’s LED Chip and Light Extraction Portfolio

February 28th, 2013

Pluritas, a San Francisco IP advisory firm, is handling the sale of an LED patent portfolio developed and currently owned by a company called Illumitex

According to the press release, Illumitex has shifted focus from LED design to lighting fixtures and total solutions and is therefore putting its chip patents up for sale.

The Pluritas Illumitex sale web page lists six U.S. patents, and the sale overview document says there are five patent families including foreign counterparts in Europe, China, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. 

One provisional – Application Serial No. 61/587,552, entitled “Hybrid mirror for higher extraction efficiency from bottom-emitting LEDs – is listed as well (comprising the LED micro-mirror family), though it apparently expired in January.  Because of the timing of patent application publication, it’s too early to tell whether the provisional has been converted to a formal utility application.

The first patent family relates to LED emitter layer shaping and includes U.S. Patent No. 7,829,358 and its related divisional, U.S. Patent No. 8,263,993, both entitled “System and method for emitter layer shaping” (Layer Shaping Patents).

The Layer Shaping Patents are directed to methods of shaping an emitter layer (80) of an LED to form a shaped portion (81) and an unshaped portion (82).  In the shaped portion (81) the Gallium Nitride layer (810) and sidewalls (860) and (865) are shaped to a controlled height to maximize light extraction efficiency.

 

This allows photons of light from the quantum well region (815) that enter the Gallium Nitride layer (810) through interface (850) to exit through exit face (855) with minimal energy loss.

According to the sale overview document, these shaped emitters achieve the highest possible light extraction efficiencies by minimizing internal reflections and controlling beam shape.

Another family includes U.S. Patent Nos. 7,789,531 and 8,087,960 (’960 Patent), both entitled “LED system and method” (LED Substrate Shaping Patents).  The LED Substrate Shaping Patents are directed to methods of making LEDs in which a quantum well region (15) is shaped in conformance with the substrate (10).

More particularly, both the substrate (10) and the quantum well region (15) form sidewall (60), sidewall (65), or other sidewalls.  Photons from the quantum well regions (15) may enter the substrate (10) through interface (50).

According to the ’960 Patent, the size and shape of interface (50) and exit face (55), the distance between the two faces, and the shapes of the sidewalls (60, 65) can be optimized to direct light incident on the inner side of the sidewalls to exit face (55) to produce a desired light output profile.

U.S. Patent No. 8,115,217 (’217 Patent) represents a family relating to LED packaging.  Entitled “Systems and methods for packaging light-emitting diode devices,” the ’217 Patent is directed to a packaged LED device (100) comprising a housing (130) with an LED chip (120) residing in an interior wall (135) of the housing (130).  A phosphor plate (140) is positioned on top of the LED chip (120).

Submount (110) comprises a block of thermally conductive material having a top surface and a bottom surface.  The submount (110) also includes cap layers (115) on the bottom surface, a metal layer (150) on the top surface, and embedded electrical connectors (160) connecting the cap layer (115) and the metal layer (150).

Finally, U.S. Patent No. 8,217,399, entitled “Photon tunneling light emitting diodes and methods” (’399 Patent), represents the photon tunneling family.  The ’399 Patent is directed to an LED device comprising an LED layer structure (100) bonded to a submount (150).

The submount can include one or more electrodes (151) in contact with or connected to a p-metal layer (145) and one or more electrodes (152) connected to an n-metal contacts (160).  The LED device has an n-Gallium Nitride layer (120), a p-Gallium Nitride layer (130), and a quantum well layer (140).

According to the sale overview document, a key feature of the ’399 Patent invention is that the LED layer structure (100) has a thickness less than the wavelength of the light produced.  The resulting photon tunneling prevents photons from becoming trapped in the substrate and therefore increases the amount of light emitted.

The sale overview document also features some cool analysis by our friends over at IP Checkups that shows where the Illumitex patents fit in the broader LED patent landscape.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

February 25th, 2013

 

There have been a number of green patent complaints filed recently in such technology areas as compact fluorescent lamps, LEDs, and battery chargers.

 

Compact Fluorescent Reflector Lamps

In the Matter of: Certain Compact Fluorescent Reflector Lamps and Products and Components Containing Same

On January 28, 2013, Andrzej Bobel and Neptun Light (Complainants) filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) requesting an investigation of Maxlite, Technical Consumer Products, Satco Products, and Litetronics International (Respondents) for the alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,053,540 (’540 Patent).

The ’540 Patent is entitled “Energy efficient compact fluorescent reflector lamp” and directed to a reflector lamp which makes use of a fluorescent bulb, rather than an incandescent bulb, to improve the energy efficiency and service life of the bulb and allow for a wider array of color temperatures of emitted light.  The disclosed lamp is “directly compatible with incandescent and halogen PAR lamps” and “used in the same type [of] light fixtures as incandescent” lamps.

Complainants allege that Respondents are engaged in the importation and sale of reflector compact fluorescent lights that infringe the ‘540 Patent.  Complainants are seeking a permanent limited exclusion order and a permanent cease and desist order regarding the importation and sale of the infringing products.

 

LEDs

Whelen Engineering Co., Inc. v. Able 2 Products Co.

On January 23, 2013, Whelen brought suit against Able in the District of Connecticut for the alleged infringement of its patent and corresponding trademark concerning an LED light display.

The patent at issue, U.S. Patent No. 6,641,284 (‘284 patent), is entitled “LED Light Assembly” and discloses a linear array of LEDs within a linear parabolic reflector that allows for the production of uniform, directional light beams. 

Whelen also asserted U.S. Trademark Registration No. 2,762,987 (listed in the complaint by its application number), for the mark LINEAR-LED, which, according to the complaint, is “used in connection with . . . warning lights and warning light systems.”

Whelen argues that Able is infringing its patent and trademark through the sale of a number of its warning light products.  Whelen seeks damages and destruction of the infringing products.

Last year Whelen sued another LED maker for infringement of the ’284 Patent, a design patent, and a few of its trademarks. 

 

Cree, Inc. v. Cooper Lighting, LLC

Cree brought suit against Cooper Lighting (Cooper) on February 19, 2013 for the alleged infringement of two patents relating to an LED apparatus and fixture.  The complaint was filed in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The patents at issue are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,282,239, entitled “Light-directing apparatus with protected reflector-shield and lighting fixture utilizing same” (’239 Patent) and 8,070,306, entitled “LED lighting fixture” (’306 Patent).  Ruud, a subsidiary of Cree, and Cooper are also in litigation surrounding the alleged infringement of a number of Ruud’s patents (see previous posts here and here).

Cree alleges that Cooper’s Ventus LED product infringes the ‘306 Patent and its AccuLED Optics system infringes the ‘239 patent.  According to the complaint, Cooper also offers and sells a number of other infringing products under numerous brands. Cree is seeking a permanent injunction and damages.

 

Illumination Management Solutions, Inc. v. Ruud Lighting, Inc.

On February 13, 2013, Illumination Management Solutions (IMS) filed suit against Ruud Lighting (Ruud) in federal court in Tyler, Texas for alleged patent infringement and civil conspiracy.

The patent at issue is U.S. Patent No. 7,674, 018 entitled “LED device for wide beam generation.” This LED device produces light in a wide-angle profile which can be used for street lighting purposes.

IMS is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions to prevent further infringement, an award of compensatory, exemplary, and treble damages, attorney’s fees, and an order that Ruud “transfer to [IMS] any interest assigned to Ruud Lighting. . . .”

 

Battery Chargers

VoltStar Technologies, Inc. v. Superior Communications, Inc.

On February 1, 2013, VoltStar filed suit against Superior in the Eastern District of Texas for alleged patent infringement of three of its patents.

The complaint asserts three patents:  U.S. Patent Nos. 7,910,833 and 8,242,359, each entitled “Energy-saving power adapter/charger,” and 7,960,648, entitled “Energy saving cable assemblies.”

According to the complaint, the patents pertain to a battery charger “that automatically shuts off when a device is fully charged or not plugged in, eliminating ‘vampire load.’ This feature reduces power consumption and extends battery life.”

VoltStar is seeking a permanent injunction as well as monetary damages for Superior’s alleged infringement.

 

*Cliff Brazil is a contributor to the Green Patent Blog.  Cliff is currently in his second year at the University of Kansas School of Law in Lawrence, Kansas.  He received his undergraduate degree in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado.