Archive for the ‘Smart Grid’ category

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.

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.

TransData Transferred and Consolidated; Philips and Seoul Settle

January 13th, 2012

A couple of significant green patent lawsuits saw major developments last month.

First, in what might have become an epic battle, Philips Electronics and Seoul Semiconductor ended a two-way infringement suit involving six LED and semiconductor patents (Philips-Seoul_Dismissal) after settling their claims, including entering a cross-license agreement

The accused products included Seoul’s Acriche, Top View, High Flux, Side View and Z-Power LEDs.

A previous post discussed this suit, which was filed by Philips in March of last year.  Philips asserted infringement of five LED patents and requested a declaratory judgment of non-infringement and invalidity of Seoul’s U.S. Patent No. 5,075,742 (‘742 Patent). 

The ‘742 Patent is entitled “Semiconductor structure for optoelectronic components with inclusions” and is directed to a structure having plural layers in semiconductor material.  One of the layers includes stacked sub-layers, with each sub-layer having three dimensional “inclusions” – improved electron-hole areas – and a narrow band gap. 

Philips had alleged that it had a reasonable apprehension of being sued for infringement of the ‘742 Patent because of press releases and public statements by Seoul calling the patent “fundamental to indium gallium nitride-based light emitting device technology,” and characterizing a recent court decision as holding that it would be “impossible for LEDs that use InGaN in their active layers” to avoid infringement of the ‘742 Patent.

Second, at least seven patent suits filed by Texas smart meter company TransData filed in courts across a wide swath of the southern U.S. have been consolidated in the Western District of Oklahoma (see previous posts about these cases here, here, here and here).  TransData had moved to centralize the litigation, but argued for transfer to the Eastern District of Texas. 

In a recent Transfer Order (TransData_Transfer), the Panel on Multi-District Litigation (MDL) agreed that centralization was warranted but held the Western District of Oklahoma was the most appropriate location for the convenience of the parties and judicial efficiency. 

This is because of its convenient, central location, its relatively light docket, and the lack of opposition by the parties to the district:

We are persuaded that the Western District of Oklahoma is the most appropriate transferee district.  It is near Texas, where many of the parties are located; is in a geographically central location for this nationwide litigation; and an action is already pending in that district.  Most responding defendants support or do not oppose centralization in the Western District of Oklahoma, and the relative docket conditions in this district are more favorable than other proposed transferee forums.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patents Nos. 6,181,294 (‘294 Patent), 6,462,713 (‘713 Patent) and 6,903,699 (‘699 Patent), which relate to antennas and wireless communication devices for use with electric meters.

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

December 16th, 2011

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



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

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

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

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


Wastewater Treatment

Polylok, Inc. v. Bear Onsite

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

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

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


Hybrid Vehicles

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

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

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

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


Fernandez v. Toyota Motor Corporation

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

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


Biomaterials; Recycling & Waste Management

Frito-Lay North America v. Innovia Films Limited

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

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

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


Smart Grid / Energy Management

Opower, Inc. v. Efficiency 2.0, LLC

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

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

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

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

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

Green Patent Acquisitions: Buying Up Energy Management and Distribution and Green Chemistry

November 29th, 2011


There have been a few interesting acquisitions this month.  First, energy efficiency solutions provider Serious Energy bought Agilewaves, a Silicon Valley startup that specializes in energy data storage and retrieval.

Agilewaves owns at least one published U.S. patent application, Application No. 2010/0211618, entitled “Efficient storage of data allowing for multiple level granularity retrieval” (‘618 Application). 

The ‘618 Application is directed to methods for storing and retrieving data at multiple levels of granularity.  In the described methods, time series data are organized based on associated time stamps corresponding to a timeline (202). 

The data also may be sorted at multiple resolutions, including rows (212, 218, 222, 224) representing the highest resolution storage of time series data down to the lowest resolution view of the data.  Each level of resolution has values stored in segments (204-211, 213-216, 219-220).

According to the ‘618 Application, the invention is superior to prior art systems, which stored individual readings over long periods of time and required a lot of time to retrieve it all. 

This system makes data retrieval more efficient than those prior systems because data can be retrieved from individual segments:

Storing the time series data in the format illustrated by FIG. 2 allows for efficient retrieval of data.  For example, if a user requests time series data over the time period from 1:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., a processor may simply retrieve the data value associated with segment 219 from a database instead of having to retrieve and add the data values associated with segments 204-207.  This saves time and processing resources at the time the data is requested.

According to this Greentech Media story, the deal brings Serious Energy “a whole new level of granular building energy data.”


Another notable acquisition is power and automation technologies giant ABB’s purchase of Australian renewable power automation company Powercorp (see Powercorp’s press release here).  Powercorp makes controls to manage renewable energy in isolated grids and allow grid penetration of wind and solar power.

Powercorp owns at least one international patent application, WO 2004/027959, entitled “System and method for stabilising a power system” (‘959 Application).

The ‘959 Application is directed to systems and methods involving a power system stabilizer (19) for stabilizing a power generation system (9) having a grid (11) supplying power to numerous loads (17). 

The power generation system (9) comprises a renewable energy generator (13) using a renewable energy source and a conventional energy generator (15) using a conventional energy source.

The power system stabilizer (19) includes a link (29) for electrically connecting the grid interface (21) and the load interface (25). 

Control means responds to data from sensors to control of the flow of electrical energy between the grid interface (21) and the load interface (25) to maintain the property of the power generation system (9) at a predetermined value to stabilize the system.

This deal shows that renewables integration is a priority for ABB.

Finally, Fremont, California, biofuels company Amyris bought green chemical startup Draths, which makes bio-based nylon and polyester. 

The company provides a convenient summary list of its IP, which includes two U.S. patents and several published patent applications.  One example is U.S. Patent No. 7,399,855, entitled “Synthesis of caprolactam from lysine” (‘855 Patent). 

The ‘855 Patent is directed to methods of making caprolactam, one of the company’s product offerings.  According to Draths’ product web page, the caprolactam monomer can be used to make 100% bio-based nylon.


Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

November 12th, 2011


Several green patent lawsuits have been filed in the last two weeks in the areas of smart grid, wastewater treatment, and emissions reduction technology.  

In addition, the U.S. International Trade Commission decided to move forward with an important investigation regarding solar panel mounting systems.


Smart Grid

 TransData, Inc. v. San Diego Gas & Electric Company

TransData, Inc. v. Wisconsin Power & Light Company

These complaints (TransData-SDG&E_Complaint / TransData-WP&L_Complaint), filed October 31, 2011 in the Southern District of California and November 1, 2011 in the Western District of Wisconsin, respectively, add to a host of recent lawsuits by Texas smart meter company TransData against a number of regional utilities. 

Details on the other TransData suits can be found in previous posts here and here.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patents Nos. 6,181,294 (‘294 Patent), 6,462,713 (‘713 Patent) and 6,903,699 (‘699 Patent), which relate to antennas and wireless communication devices for use with electric meters.

The ‘294, ‘713 and ‘699 Patents are related patents which trace back to an original 1998 filing date.  They describe early solutions for wireless transmission of electrical consumption data.

The accused products are electric meters deployed by the utilities, including certain Elster meters using Sensus wireless modules and certain Itron meters.

Mesh Comm LLC v. Trilliant Networks, Inc.

Mesh Comm, an Atlanta, Georgia, company filed a complaint (MeshComm-Trilliant_Complaint) November 4, 2011 in the Western District of Kentucky against Redwood City, California-based smart grid communications company Trilliant.

Mesh Comm, apparently a non-practicing patentee, is asserting U.S. Patent No. 8,019,836 (‘836 Patent) relating to a system for enabling wireless communication between meters so utilities can remotely monitor and control energy usage. 

A previous post discussed Mesh Comm’s patent infringement suit against Potomac Electric Power Company and Silver Spring involving a related patent.


Wastewater Treatment

Polylok, Inc. v. Bear Onsite

On November 3, 2011 Connecticut-based wastewater treatment solutions provider Polylok sued Bear Onsite, a water treatment product development company, in the District of Connecticut.

Polylok alleges that Bear Onsite’s effluent septic filters and water level control alert devices infringe U.S. Patent No. 6,129,837, entitled “Waste water treatment filter including waste water level control alert device” (‘837 Patent). 

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

Emissions Reduction

Enerfex, Inc. v. UOP LLC et al.

In this suit, a Vermont company called Enerfex accuses oil refiner UOP (formerly Universal Oil Products Company), Quicksilver Resources and Breitburn Energy Partners of infringing U.S. Patent No. 5,482,539 (‘539 Patent).

Entitled “Multiple stage semi-permeable membrane process and apparatus for gas separation,” the ‘539 Patent is directed to membrane processes and apparatus for producing a very high purity permeate gas, which can reduce the amount of methane loss in “vent gas.”

Enerfex alleges that the HAYES 29 natural gas power plant in Northern Michigan includes infringing membrane systems installed and operated by UOP.  The complaint specifically cites the Separax brand membranes products.



In re: Certain Integrated Solar Power Systems and Components Thereof (Westinghouse Solar, Inc. v. Zep Solar, Inc. et al.)

On November 2, 2011 the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) announced that it would open an investigation into Westinghouse’s allegations that Zep and Canadian Solar imported solar panels that infringe two Westinghouse patents.

The investigation stems from a complaint (Westinghouse_ITC_Complaint) filed by Westinghouse in early October.  A previous post discussed that complaint and some of the history of patent litigation between Westinghouse (formerly Akeena Solar) and Zep.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patents Nos. 7,406,800 (‘800 Patent) and 7,987,641 (‘641 Patent).

Both patents cover what Westinghouse refers to as the “Andalay System,” a solar power system which includes solar panels with integrated racking, wiring and grounding (DC solar panels), and integrated microinverters (AC solar panels) for residential and commercial customers.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

October 28th, 2011


Two green patent lawsuits have been filed in the last few weeks in the areas of smart grid and solar.

Smart Grid

Sensus USA Inc. v. Nxegen LLC

Sensus USA filed a complaint (Sensus-Nxegen_Complaint) against Nxegen on October 19, 2011 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. 

Sensus asserts two patents against Nxegen, U.S. Patent No. 5,438,329 (‘329 Patent), entitled “Duplex Bi-Directional Multi-Mode Remote Instrument Reading and Telemetry System,” and U.S. Patent No. 7,012,546, entitled “Modular Wireless Fixed Network for Wide-Area Metering Data Collection and Meter Module Apparatus” (‘546 Patent).

The ‘546 Patent covers a transmitting device connected to a gas or water meter which transmits signals relaying data related to the meter.  The ‘329 Patent covers a receiver designed to receive signals transmitted by a remote transmitter (such as described in the ‘546 Patent). 

The receiver described in the ‘329 Patent can be located in either a fixed or remote station, enabling a vehicle to remotely receive utility data by merely driving by a meter.  Figure 1 of the ‘329 Patent depicts the different possible configurations.


This is the second lawsuit in a growing legal battle in which the two companies are each asserting patents against each other.  A previous post discussed a patent infringement complaint Nxegen filed a against Sensus in July.


HeliOptix LLC v. Enfocus Engineering Corp.

HeliOptix, a New York manufacturer of building integrated solar energy systems, filed a complaint (Helioptix_Complaint) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on October 14, 2011 accusing its California competitor, Enfocus Engineering (Enfocus), of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,190,531 (‘531 Patent).

The ‘531 Patent is entitled “Concentrating Type Solar Collection and Daylighting System within Glazed Building Envelopes.”  The system utilizes a plurality of miniaturized solar modules, a focusing lens and an activating mechanism attached to the solar modules for actively tracking the sun. 

Figure 4A depicts the concentrating lens (220) and the solar cell (202).  

The system is designed to utilize concentrated solar energy to provide both electric and thermal energy, and to reduce the solar gain within a building.  The system utilizes a Fresnel lens to focus sunlight onto a photovoltaic cell mounted at a distance from the lens.  In addition, the collected solar energy can also be used for thermal energy production. 

The solar collectors are miniaturized in order to enable them to be mounted in a building façade, preferably between window panes as depicted in Figure 10A. 

Due to the size of the solar modules and their spacing, daylight is able to pass through the system to light a room.

The accused product is EnFocus’s Diamond-Power Solar Panel.

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

SmartSynch’s Wireless Smart Meter Patents Pay Off with Consumers Roll Out

October 12th, 2011

SmartSynch is a Jackson, Mississippi, provider of smart grid solutions and one of the few such companies which leverage existing cellular networks. 

SmartSynch owns at least 14 patents and pending patent applications, including at least two patent families relating to wireless data transmission and management technology.

The first dates back to an original filing date of 2001 and includes U.S. Patents Nos. 6,946,972 and 7,250,874, entitled “Systems and methods for wirelessly transmitting data from a utility meter” (collectively “Wireless Transmission Patents”)

The second patent family includes U.S. Patents No. 7,289,887 (‘887 Patent), 7,349,766 and 7,451,019, originally filed in 2003 and entitled “Systems and methods for remote power management using IEEE 802 based wireless communication links” (collectively “IEEE 802 Patents”).

The Wireless Transmission Patents are directed to methods of transmitting and receiving utility meter data in which an interface board (18) obtains electrical usage data from a meter board (12) and packages it for transmission to a remote host computer (28) via a pager board (24) and a pager system (26).

The interface board (18) also monitors power quality data including average phase voltages and angles from the meter board (12), and when there are power quality events such as power outages and high/low voltage events, notifies the remote host computer (28).

Raw load profile data is read from the serial meter port (16) via an interface serial port (20) and stored in an input buffer by a microprocessor (32).

The microprocessor (32) performs a process called differential compression whereby it calculates the difference between two meter reading values and compresses the data if necessary for transmission.  According to the Wireless Transmission Patents:

[C]ompression may be turned on and off as the stream of raw data words are read from the input buffer by examining the data value of the current word to determine whether the difference between it and the data value of the last data word read can be represented by a single byte.

In this way, streams of data which vary in size can be transmitted efficiently over a wireless network.

The IEEE 802 Patents are directed to methods for energy management wherein a host controller distributes energy data to an on-premise processor, which in turn uses 802.11 based wireless protocols to communicate with utility meters.

802.11 is a suite of wireless technical standards for local area networks (LAN).  The 802.11 protocols are based on using TCP/IP protocols and were developed to facilitate interworking of existing hardware and software for use with wireless LAN equipment.

The IEEE 802 Patents generally relate to integrating energy data into wireless communications and include some rather broad claims, including claim 1 of the ‘887 Patent:

1.  A method for energy management comprising:

receiving energy rating data at an on-premise processor transmitted by a distribution network from a host processor and storing the energy rating data in a memory, the rating data including a schedule pertaining to time and energy costs;

receiving at the on-premise processor a message from an end device requesting energy rating data, wherein the message is communicated using a wireless communication link, the wireless communication link relaying the message through at least one other end device;

retrieving the energy rating data from the memory and sending a response message including the energy rating data using the wireless communications link from the on-premise processor to the end device;

determining independently in the end device whether to generate an activation signal based at least in part on the energy rating data; and

the end device allowing or reducing power load consumption according to the determination.

According to a recent SmartSynch press release, its technology “securely deliver[s] smart grid data on all major cellular networks, enabling quicker, easier, more scalable and strategic smart meter deployments for utilities.”

And the utilities are paying attention:  SmartSynch recently announced that it was selected to provide the advanced metering system for Consumers Energy’s rollout of 1.8 million smart meters to the utility’s electricity customers in Michigan (see the Greentech Media article here).

The press release says Consumers is “the largest U.S. utility to choose a cellular-based communication system for the smart meter deployment phase of its grid modernization program.”

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

September 30th, 2011


Several green patent lawsuits have been filed in the last two weeks in the areas of biofuels, energy storage, smart grid, LEDs and environmental remediation.



Genifuel Corporation et al. v. Oyler

This is an inventorship dispute over numerous patent applications relating to production of fuel and fertilizers from algae, including two that have issued as U.S. Patents Nos. 7,905,930 and 7,977,076.

In the complaint (Genifuel-Complaint), filed September 15, 2011 in the District of Utah, the Salt Lake City biomass-to-fuels company Genifuel requests an order declaring the defendant is not an inventor of the disputed IP.


Energy Storage – Batteries and Fuel Cells

Lester Electrical Inc. v. Diversified Power Int’l

The complaint (LesterElectrical-Complaint) was filed September 26, 2011 in the District of Nebraska.

Lester Electrical, a Nebraska industrial battery charger company, accuses Diversified Power of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,114,833 (‘833 Patent).  The ‘833 Patent is entitled “Monitoring and controlling system for battery and battery charger” and is directed to battery charging and control technology for battery-operated vehicles.


Limnia, Inc. v. Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. et al.

By this complaint (Limnia-Complaint), filed September 13, 2011 in the Central District of California, San Francisco-based hydrogen fuel cell maker Limnia asserts four patents (and, oddly, one pending patent application) against Energy Conversion Devices (ECD), United Technologies and AeroVironment.

The patents are U.S. Patents Nos. 7,011,768, entitled “Methods for hydrogen storage using doped alanate compositions,” 7,169,489, entitled “Hydrogen storage, distribution, and recovery system,” 7,279,222, entitled “Solid state hydrogen storage systems,” and 7,399,325, entitled “Method and apparatus for a hydrogen fuel cassette distribution and recovery system.”

The accused products are ECD’s metal hydride storage containers and solid hydrogen storage canisters, United Technologies’ alanate hydrogen storage systems, metal hydride systems and polymer-dispersed metal hydride systems, and a host of AeroVironment’s energy systems, electric vehicle charging solutions, and passenger and fleet electric vehicle charging systems.



Dow Corning Compound Semiconductor Solutions, LLC v. Cree, Inc.

In this declaratory judgment action (Dow-Cree_Complaint), filed September 27, 2011 in the Eastern District of Michigan, DCCSS requests judicial declarations of non-infringement and invalidity of three Cree patents relating to silicon carbide wafers used as precursors for semiconductors.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent No. 7,294,324, entitled “Low basal plane dislocation bulk grown SiC wafers,” U.S. Patent No. 7,314,520, entitled “Low 1c screw dislocation 3 inch silicon carbide wafer,” and U.S. Patent No. 7,314,521, entitled “Low micropipe 100 mm silicon carbide wafer.”  The patents are directed to silicon carbide wafers having certain diameters and dislocation densities and methods of making such wafers.


Smart Grid

 TransData, Inc. v. Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co.

This complaint (TransData-Oklahoma_Complaint), filed September 16, 2011 in the Western District of Oklahoma, is the latest in a flurry of lawsuits by Texas smart meter company TransData against a number of utilities in the southeastern United States.  Details on the other TransData suits can be found in a previous post.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patents Nos. 6,181,294 (‘294 Patent), 6,462,713 (‘713 Patent) and 6,903,699 (‘699 Patent), which relate to antenna and wireless communication devices for use with electric meters. The ‘294, ‘713 and ‘699 Patents are related patents which trace back to an original 1998 filing date.  They describe early solutions for wireless transmission of electrical consumption data.


Environmental Remediation

Atlantis Holding Company, LLC et al. v. Pine Environmental Services, Inc.

Atlantis, Summit Holding Company and Aquarius Holdings Company (d/b/a Proactive Environmental Products) sued environmental monitoring solutions provider Pine Environmental Services (PES) on September 28, 2011 in the District of Maryland (Atlantis-Complaint).

Proactive makes replaceable stainless steel motors for groundwater sampling equipment, and the plaintiffs accuse PES of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,584,785, entitled “Groundwater sampling device” (‘785 Patent).  The ‘785 Patent is directed to a replaceable internal electric motor for a groundwater sampling device, the motor including means to align it with an alignment pin of the groundwater sampling device.

The complaint also includes allegations of trademark infringement and counterfeiting based on U.S. trademark registrations for several marks, including PROACTIVE, PROACTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL PRODUCTS, MONSOON, TYPHOON and HURRICANE for motors and pumps.


Recycling & Waste Management

R360 Environmental Solutions, Inc. v. Scott Environmental Services, Inc.

From the Sow’s Ear to Silk Purse Department comes this suit involving U.S. Patent No. 8,007,581 (‘851 Patent), entitled “Incorporation of drilling cuttings into stable load-bearing structures” and directed to processes for recycling drill cuttings from oil drilling equipment and converting them into high-load-bearing civil engineering structures such as vehicle roads and drilling pads.

By its complaint (R360-Complaint), filed September 16, 2011 in the Southern District of Texas, R360 requests a decaratory judgment of non-infringement and invalidity of the ‘581 Patent.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

September 16th, 2011

Several new green patent complaints have been filed recently in the areas of biofuels, smart grid, LEDs, solar manufacturing materials, and waste water treatment.  Here’s a run down:



Butamax Advanced Biofuels v. Gevo

The complaint (Butamax-Gevo_DJComplaint) was filed August 9, 2011 in the District of Delaware.

Butamax, a joint venture between BP and DuPont, accuses Gevo of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,993,889, entitled “Fermentive production of four carbon alcohols,” and directed to methods for producing isobutanol by fermentive growth of a recombinant yeast microorganism.

This is the second patent infringement suit filed by Butamax against Gevo.  I covered the first complaint here.


Smart Grid

Nxegen v. Sensus USA

The complaint (Nxegen-Complaint) was filed July 29, 2011 in the District of Connecticut.

Nxegen asserts two related patents against Sensus, U.S. Patents Nos. 6,633,823 and 7,135,956, entitled “System and method for monitoring and controlling energy use” and directed to systems and methods for monitoring and controlling power use among a number of facilities to reduce a real-time aggregate power load across the facilities.

The accused products include the FlexNet Advanced Metering re Infrastructure (AMI) solution.


IP Co. (Intus IQ) v. Ingersoll-Rand et al.

The complaint (Intus-Ingersoll_Complaint) was filed August 25, 2011 in the Eastern District of Texas.

Intus asserts two related patents, U.S. Patents Nos. 6,044,062 and 6,249,516, entitled “Wireless network gateway and method for providing same,” and directed to certain wireless network systems having a server providing a gateway between two networks.

The other named defendants are Schlage Lock Company, Trane and Schneider Electric

Intus is a patent licensing company and appears to b e related to Sipco, which has been a patent enforcement spree, including suits against utilities, smart meter companies, and EV charging companies.


ICH Intellectual Capital Holdings v. Badger Meter et al.

The complaint, filed September 8, 2011 in the Eastern District of Texas, accuses a host of smart meter players of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,248,181, entitled “Automated meter reading system” and directed to an automated meter reading system adapted to facilitate readings by an operator walking or driving close to the system at a low power level and at a frequency in an unlicensed frequency band.

The other named defendants are Mueller Water Products, Transparent Technologies, Metron-Farnier, Tantalus, ESCO Technologies, Aclara Power-Line Systems, Landis+Gyr, Trilliant, Tropos, and the City of Winnsboro, Texas.

ICH appears to be a non-practicing patentee.



SemiLEDS v. Cree

The complaint (SemiLEDS-Complaint) was filed August 15, 2011 in the District of Delaware.

SemiLEDS accuses Cree of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,615,789, entitled “Vertical light emitting diode device structure” and directed to a vertical light-emitting diode structure utilizing a spacer to separate the p-doped layer from the active layer and U.S. Patent No. 7,646,033, entitled “Systems and methods for producing white-light emitting diodes” and directed to a vertical light-emitting diode structure having a wafer level phosphor layer parallel to a gallium nitride layer.

In the increasingly common tit-for-tat LED patent litigation wars, SemiLEDS fights back here after being sued by Cree in April for alleged infringement of “flip-chip” mounted LEDs.


Waste Management / Water Filtration

Salsnes Filter v. M2 Renewables

The complaint (Salsnes-Complaint) was filed August 18, 2011 in the Central District of California.

Salsnes asserts U.S. Patent No. 6,942,786, entitled “Cleaning device for waste water” and directed to a waste water cleaning device having an endless filtering belt and a blowoff device to remove contamination from the belt.

The named defendants are M2 Renewables and Nepsus Environmental, and the accused devices are the M2 Microscreen and Nepsus CBUM Process at the Adelanto, California waste water treatment plant and the M2 Microscreen at the ProLogis-Fontana, California Kaiser Steel waste water treatment plant.



du Pont v. Heraeus

The complaint (DuPont-Heraeus_Complaint), filed September 2, 2011 in the District of Delaware, asserts U.S. Patent No. 7,767,254, entitled “Paste for solar cell electrode and solar cell” and directed to a method of making an electrode for a solar cell by applying a conductive paste comprising silver particles.

du Pont alleges that Heraeus’s manufacture and use of its H94XX and H92XX series of pastes infringes the ‘254 Patent.