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Top Green IP Stories of 2015

January 19th, 2016

2015

Before we get into the new news, let’s take a quick look back at the top green IP stories of 2015.

 

5.  Automaker Eco-marks

Branding of hybrid and electric vehicles remained important last year, and both Chevrolet and Toyota made progress in protecting and enforcing their trademark rights in 2015.

Chevy overcame some obstacles in its U.S. trademark applications for the BOLT and CHEVROLET BOLT marks.  It seems these applications were filed as early as possible to secure registration based on Chevy’s planned production date of its all-electric concept car coming to market in 2017.

Toyota prevailed in an opposition proceeding, shutting down a Chinese company that wanted to register PRIUS as a trademark for tobacco flavors and smoking paraphernalia.

 

4.  Biodiesel Tax Credit Greenwashers Plead Guilty and Go to Jail

Last year, a number of people were sentenced to jail time for charges related to schemes involving false production of biodiesel renewable identification numbers (RINs).

Four individuals in Florida were sentenced to prison time for representing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they had produced biodiesel, generating fraudulent biodiesel RINs, and selling the fake RINs to third parties.

In Texas, the operator of a company called Green Diesel LLC pled guilty to charges of claiming to produce millions of gallons of biodiesel and generating and selling about 45 million fake RINs based on the claim.  Under the plea deal, he faces more than 10 years in prison and will be responsible for $51 million in restitution to reimburse victims of the scheme.

 

3.  EV Patent Commons

Picking up where Tesla left off in 2014, Toyota and Ford made opening up patents directed to electric vehicles and related technology a trend in 2015.  Neither made open-ended, no restriction offers like Tesla, though.

In January Toyota announced that its patents related to hydrogen fuel cell technology would be available for use without any royalties.  The hydrogen production and supply patents are open for “an unlimited duration.”  However, the fuel cell patents are available for royalty-free licenses only until the end of 2020.

Ford followed in May with an announcement that it was offering its EV patents for license “for a fee.”  This is not a donation.  Far from it; Ford simply stated that other parties could pay to license their EV patents.

 

2.  High-tech Greenwashing

A new trend emerged in 2015:  that of technological greenwashing.  Rather than making false or misleading statements in ads and other marketing materials, or providing express statements of inflated numbers, this new form of greenwashing uses technology to deceive.

The most prominent example was the major news of the Volkswagen emissions scandal in which the German automaker admitted to intentionally programming a number of its diesel vehicles to activate emissions controls only during testing.  The vehicles’ software allowed the nitrogen oxide (NOx) output to satisfy U.S. emissions standards during testing while producing much higher emissions during actual driving conditions.

Another high-tech greenwashing case is the lawsuit accusing Ford of claiming that a software update for the Fusion Hybrid would increase performance and mileage.  According to the plaintiff, the car’s monitor displayed better mileage and less gas usage after the upgrade but the numbers were inaccurate and the vehicle’s actual mileage did not improve.

A troubling trend, given that the entire deception is cloaked in technology.

 

1. Biobutanol Patent Warriors Settle

A significant green patent case settled in 2015.  In August, Colorado-based Gevo and BP-DuPont joint venture Butamax entered into worldwide patent cross-license and settlement agreements.

The deal ended a massive patent dispute that began back in early 2011 and grew to comprise at least 17 lawsuits and 14 patents relating to methods of producing biobutanol.

The core of the deal was that Butamax takes the lead in the on-road gasoline market and Gevo gets the jet fuel market.

The litigation was notable both for its size and as the first foray of big oil into biofuels patent lawsuits.

Bruce Kania’s TedX Talk on Transition Water

March 3rd, 2015

In a previous post, I spoke with Bruce Kania of Floating Island International (FII) about the company’s floating island technology and patent portfolio.

FII’s floating islands help maintain the health of wetland ecosystems through a “concentrated” wetland effect, i.e., higher removal rates of nitrate, phosphate and ammonia as well as reduction of  total suspended solids and dissolved organic carbon in waterways.

You can hear Mr. Kania speak in a compelling TedX talk on Transition Water.  This summary of the talk explains the concept:

In our drive to provide food for a growing world population, we have invented then squandered billions of tons of artificial fertilizer, impairing most of our surface waters over the last 70 years.  By viewing this fertilizer as a resource, we can “transition” these water-borne nutrients back out through the food-web, while creating more abundance, more food, and transitioning water towards sustainability.

 

December 20th, 2014

 

 

Green Patent Blog is on vacation.

Happy Holidays!


 

 

 

ECO founder Helps Engineers Become Cleantech Entrepreneurs

October 13th, 2014

Just a quick report on a recent addition to the clean tech start-up community and blogosphere.  It’s called ECO founder, and the company hasn’t developed any exciting technology or new business model.  It provides something much more fundamental.

ECO founder helps engineers with green tech innovations and other budding clean tech entrepreneurs learn the ropes of managing a start-up.  Run by George Gray and based in Los Angeles, ECO founder teaches business and start-up skills via such programs as the 30-Day Challenge and Mr. Gray’s book, Engineer to Founder.

Of course, there is an ECO founder blog, with a variety of posts such as “Learn Key Business Skills Before You Leave Your Engineering Career,” “How to Build a Killer Elevator Pitch,” and “Go-to Market: Six Steps Cleantech Marketing.”

Why is Mr. Gray providing this services for green technicians?  He hopes that ECO founder can help people who don’t have the start-up skills obtain some fundamental skills and be successful:

Most engineers and scientists don’t have the startup skills to launch a clean-tech startup.  ECO founder is here to change that.

August 18th, 2014

 

 

Green Patent Blog is on vacation.


 

 

 

In Memoriam: IP, Innovation, and Environmental Scholar Sarah Tran

March 9th, 2014

I am very sad to report that Sarah Tran, a professor at SMU’s Dedman School of Law, passed away on February 28th from complications from leukemia.  She was 34 years old.

Sarah was an important patent scholar, as detailed here in a recent Patently-O blog post and was a very dedicated teacher, even while battling her illness.

Significantly for readers of this blog, Sarah was among the first (and few) patent scholars to analyze and critique the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Green Technology Pilot Program, calling for the program to be made either long-term or permanent (see her article, Expediting Innovation, here and my post on an early draft here).

In addition, with Peter Menell, Sarah co-edited a compilation on the interplay of intellectual property, innovation and environmental protection entitled Intellectual Property, Innovation, and the Environment, which comes out later this month in the United States.

On a personal note, I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah and her family when I was in Dallas for a conference a couple of years ago.  As I branched out to academic writing and publishing, Sarah was very encouraging and provided valuable advice.

I was glad to have had the opportunity to help her a little bit by recording a guest lecture for one of her classes when she was in the hospital last year.

This is a huge loss for everyone who knew her both personally and professionally; she will be deeply missed (see more on her life here).

Sarah’s family has asked that you consider making a contribution to the fund created to support her two young children, the Tran Children Development Fund.

December 14th, 2013

 

 

Green Patent Blog is on vacation.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

May 31st, 2013

 

 

 

 

Green Patent Blog is on a brief sabbatical.

 

 

GPB Makes List of 101 Terrific Sites on Renewable Energy

February 13th, 2013


I’m very pleased to report that Green Patent Blog has been selected as one of the 101 Terrific Sites on Renewable Energy, a list complied by EnvironmentalScienceDegree.com. This is a great honor. The complete list can be found here.

December 24th, 2012

 

 

Green Patent Blog is on vacation.

Happy Holidays!