Archive for the ‘Smart Grid Patents’ category

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”

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.

Who Owns All the Smart Grid Patents? New Study Reveals Answer

March 25th, 2014

Ever wonder who owns all the smart grid patents?  With all of the acquisitions in smart grid (see, e.g., here and here), it seems a lot of folks have been considering the question.

A recent study by patent analytics firm Relecura on smart grid patent holders seeks to answer this question.  It turns out the top five are ABB, GE, Panasonic, Siemens, and Toshiba:

The study breaks out the results by six sub-technology categories (communications, software, smart meters, sensors, substation automation, and distribution automation) and lists the top large entities and SMEs in each subcategory:

The full report, which can be found here, styles itself a “preliminary survey of the Smart Grid assignee landscape and first-cut identification of patent asset holders in Smart Grid technology.”

According to Relecura, the purpose of the study is to identify potential licensees and acquisitions targets for each of the sub-technologies.  The study uses 2008 as a reference year, and defines its Potential Licensees and Potential Acquisitions Targets relative to that year.

More particularly, Potential Licensees are entities whose patent applications were filed in 2008 or later while Potential Acquisitions Targets are typically small or medium sized entities with granted patents from applications filed in 2008 or earlier.  In other words, small companies and SMEs with relatively mature patent portfolios are deemed more ripe for acquisition and those with younger patent portfolios are thought to be more amenable to licensing IP.

With so much activity in smart grid M&A, this report could be useful to a lot of people.

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 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.

Korean Program Seeks to Patent Smart Grid Standards

April 18th, 2013

I saw an interesting story at SmartGridNews.com about a Korean program to support patenting of standards for smart grid technologies.  Additional reports are at Energy Korea and Power Insider.

The Korea Smart Grid Association recently launched the initiative, which will support R&D projects conducted by companies, universities and research institutes to develop core technologies and standards for smart grid applications.

The program is sponsored by the Korea Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) and supervised by an organization called the Standard Patent Center.

The ultimate goal, it seems, is to generate patents that cover standards in the smart grid space.  Kim Yeon-ho, the Director General of the Electric and Electronic Burear at KIPO, was fairly blunt about Korea’s thought process on this:

The standard patent is a high value-added patent that can enjoy both market power and monopolistic strength of patent, which are advantages of standardization.

A major caveat to the monopoly power rationale is that the owners of patents covering industry standards are typically required to license the technology on terms that are fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND).

The Korea Smart Grid Association offers another explanation, claiming to be looking out for the little guy.  The Association’s Vice President, Mun Ho, said:

Given that most smart grid-related companies are small and mid-sized businesses, which are weak in coping with standard smart grid patents, the program is expected to signficantly contribute to strengthening their competitiveness.  The Association will exert continued effort to promote creation of patent standards.

In particular, the Association plans to develop flexible AC transmission systems and electric vehicle charging infrastructure technologies, create standard patents around those technologies, and then “provide results of development to small and mid-sized smart grid companies.”

At Smart Grid News, Jesse Berst’s “quick take” puts this patent program into context:

In the U.S., the smart grid has largely been about empowering customers and utilities with better information. In Korea, the smart grid is part of the country’s industrial policy and has been singled out as an important new export opportunity. [This program is] one of the steps the country is taking to make that plan into a reality.

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.

Honeywell Smart Thermostat Patents Suffer Seven Setbacks in USPTO Reexam

November 4th, 2012

 

A previous post discussed Honeywell’s patent infringement suit against Nest Labs (Nest) asserting seven thermostat control patents.  Since then Nest has requested that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) reexamine all seven of the patents-in-suit.

A reexamination proceeding allows a third party to submit prior art to the USPTO in connection with a patent and have that patent re-enter the prosecution, or examination, process with respect to the submitted prior art.  For the USPTO to grant the request, the requester must demonstrate that the prior art raises a “substantial new question of patentability.” 

Even though the reexamination fee is hefty ($17,750), it is still in most cases a cheaper way of trying to invalidate a patent than by federal court litigation.

Over the last couple of months, starting on August 17th, the USPTO has been issuing office actions rejecting the reexamined claims of Honeywell’s patents one by one.  The seventh and last Honeywell patent was rejected by an office action issued October 11th.

The list of patents and the respective office actions are provided below:

 7,634,504, entitled “Natural Language Installer Setup for Controller,” describes inventions directed at simplifying methods that use natural language to program a thermostat (’504 Patent).  Here is the office action issued in connection with the ’504 Patent.

7,142,948, entitled “Controller Interface With Dynamic Schedule Display,” describes methods for operating a thermostat including calculating the time anticipated to reach a particular set temperature (’948 Patent).  Here is the office action issued in connection with the ’948 Patent.

6,975,958, entitled “Profile Based Method for Deriving a Temperature Setpoint Using a ‘Delta’ Based On Cross-Indexing a Received Price-Point Level Signal,” describes a method for reducing energy costs by controlling a thermostat from information stored in a remote location (’958 Patent).  Here is the office action issued in connection with the ’958 Patent.

7,584,899, entitled “HVAC Controller,” describes an HVAC controller that has a rotatable part which can control one or more parameters of the HVAC system (’899 Patent).  Here is the office action issued in connection with the ’899 Patent.

7,159,789, entitled “Thermostat with Mechanical User Interface” (’789 Patent), describes an apparatus for locating a non-rotating part of a thermostat inside of a rotating part, while allowing the rotating part to set and/or control different parameters of the thermostat.  Here is the office action issued in connection with the ’789 Patent.

7,159,790 entitled “Thermostat with Offset Drive,” (’790 Patent), is related to the ’789 Patent and describes the same inventions.  Here is the office action issued in connection with the ’790 Patent.

7,476,988, entitled “Power Stealing Control Devices” (’988 Patent), describes a power stealing device, whereby a thermostat can divert, or skim, a small amount of electrical charge from a home’s electrical system.   Here is the office action issued in connection with the ’988 Patent.

The accused products are the Nest Thermostats (shown here):

Obviously, these office actions are a string of good news for Nest.  Note, however, that these are initial rejections.  Honeywell can, and certainly will, argue against the rejections and/or amend the claims to overcome them.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

August 10th, 2012

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

 

Biofuels

Butamax Advanced Biofuels v. Gevo, Inc.; Gevo, Inc. v. Butamax Advanced Biofuels

In the space of just one week, this mega-litigation grew 43% (by number of lawsuits filed) and 28.5% (by number of patents asserted), with Gevo filing another infringement complaint on July 30th, this time in the Eastern District of Texas, and Butamax adding a declaratory judgment (DJ) suit and a new infringement complaint in Delaware on July 31st and August 6th, respectively.

Gevo’s Complaint asserts U.S. Patent No. 8,232,089, entitled “Cytosolic isobutanol pathway localization for the production of isobutanol” and directed to a recombinant yeast microorganism for producing isobutanol in which the isobutanol producing metabolic pathway includes at least one isobutanol pathway enzyme - dihydroxy acid dehydratase - active in the cytosol of the microorganism (’089 Patent). 

Butamax filed a DJ Complaint the following day asserting it has not infringed the ’089 Patent and the patent is invalid. 

Butamax’s new infringement complaint alleges that Gevo infringes U.S. Patent No. 8,222,017, entitled “Ketol-acid reductoisomerase using NADH” (’017 Patent).  The ’017 Patent is directed to recombinant mutant ketol-acid reductoisomerase (KARI) enzymes for use in the biological synthesis of isobutanol.

With these latest salvos, I now count ten suits filed and nine asserted patents in this biobutanol battle.

 

LEDs

Relume Corporation Trust v. Leotek Electronics USA Corp.

Relume Corporation Trust v. GE Lighting Solutions LLC

Relume filed two patent infringement complaints on July 12, 2012, one against Leotek in the Eastern District of Michigan and the other against GE Lighting Solutions in Delaware.  Both complaints assert Reissue 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 GE’s GTxLED signal modules and Leotek’s IL3 Series LED traffic signal modules.

 

Schubert v. Cree, Inc.

Schubert v. Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.

Schubert v. Osram AG

In these three suits, each filed July 18, 2012 in Delaware federal court, Professor E. Fred Schubert of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) accuses Cree, Philips, and Osram of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,294,475 (’475 Patent).

The ’475 Patent is entitled “Crystallographic wet chemical etching of III-nitride material” and directed to method of processing a III-Nitride epitaxial layer system on a substrate, for example by etching to a selected depth or cleaving, and crystallographical etching the epitaxial layer system in order to obtain crystallographic plane surfaces.  These processes can be used to manufacture GaN-based LEDs.

According to the complaints (Schubert-Cree Complaint, Schubert-Osram Complaint, Schubert-Philips Complaint), Professor Schubert is the Founding Director of the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center at RPI and has made many significant contributions to the field of compound semiconductors.  

These cases have shades of the Gertrude Neumark Rothschild LED litigation saga (see,e.g., a previous post here), another professor and LED innovator who sued many LED makers and electronics companies for patent infringement. 

 

Bortex Industry Company Ltd. v. Fiber Optic Designs, Inc.

In this declaratory judgment complaint, filed July 25, 2012 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Bortex requests a DJ that Fiber Optic Designs’ U.S. Patent Nos. 7,220,022 (’022 Patent) and 7,934,852 (’852 Patent) are invalid, unenforceable, and not infringed.

The ’022 and ’852 Patents are related patents entitled “Jacketed LED assemblies and light strings containing same” and directed to LED strings having a transmissive cover and an integrally molded thermoplastic jacket at the opening of the cover to provide a seal at the opening against moisture and airborne contaminants.

 

Gasoline Recycling

Yellow Dog Technologies, LLC v. Fuel Recyclers, LLC

Yellow Dog filed this complaint on August 1, 2012 in federal court in Arizona accusing Fuel Recyclers of infringing U.S. Patent No. 8,165,781 (’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.

 

Smart Grid

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

Filed July 25, 2012 in the Central District of California, this complaint by Electric Power Group (EPG), a Pasadena, California, developer and distributor of electric grid monitoring solutions, accuses the French conglomerate Alstom and its U.S. division Alstom Grid of infringing 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.

Daintree Wireless Systems Keep Your Lights Under Control

July 31st, 2012

Daintree Networks (Daintree) is a Silicon Valley smart lighting company that provides wireless lighting controls solutions.

Daintree owns U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2012/0112654 (’654 Application), entitled “Wireless adaptation of lighting power supply” and directed to a wireless adapter device and method for wirelessly controlling a power supply device.

The ’654 Application describes a lighting system (100) controlled by a wireless controller (108) and wireless adapters (120).  The system includes lighting power supplies, or LPS (110) connected to a wall switch (106), which provides a connection to the power source (102).

Figure 2 of the ’654 Application shows one of the wireless adapters (120) and a lighting power supply (110) in more detail.  The wireless adapter (102) includes a wireless communication device, such as a transceiver (122), that receives transmissions from the wireless controller (108).  The transmissions include control signals for the lighting power device (110), and those signals are output to a processing device (124) in the adapter (120).

The adapter processing device (124) generates the control commands from the control signals and outputs those commands to the adapter serial interface (126).  The wireless adapter (120) also includes an adapter power circuit (128) that receives regulated DC power from the power supply device (110) via a conductor (129).

The lighting power supply (110) includes a power subsystem (112) that receives AC power input and generates a regulated power supply signal for a power supply processing device (114) and a power supply for a lighting load (118).  The power supply processing device (114) communicates with a lighting power supply serial interface (116), which is connected to the adapter serial interface (126) via a conductor (132). 

In this way, the power supply processing device (114) receives the control commands from the wirelss adapter (120) so the power supply processing device (114) can control power provided to the lighting load (118) in a manner specified by the control commands.

According to the ’654 Application, the serial data communications links eliminate the need for additional specialized circuitry within the wireless adapter to generate specific control signals for the lighting power supply.  The system also leverages off existing power and conditioning circuitry in the device being controlled, thereby reducing fabrication costs.

Other Daintree patents and published applications include U.S. Patent Nos. 7,660,892, 7,792,956 and 7,962,606, all filed off the same provisional application and entitled ”Network analysis system and method” and U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2011/0172844, entitled “Wireless system commissioning.”   According to Cleantech PatentEdge™, Daintree owns at least two international patent applications as well.

Some major lighting and electronics companies have taken notice of Daintree’s technology.  This Greentech Media piece reports that Philips is working with Daintree on a commercial-scale rollout of building lighting systems.