Archive for the ‘Recycling & Waste Management’ category

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

October 6th, 2017

Several new green patent complaints were filed in July and August in the areas of advanced batteries, electrolyzers for sewage treatment, LED lighting, eco-friendly pet products, solar powered trash compactors, and wind turbines.

 

Advanced Batteries

Somaltus LLC v. Universal Power Group

Somaltus LLC v. Tenergy Corporation

Somaltus LLC v. Maxim Integrated Products, Inc.

On July 26, 2017 Somaltus, a non-practicing entity, filed three patent infringement lawsuits against Universal Power Group (Somaltus v. Universal Power Group), Tenergy (Somaltus LLC v. Tenergy Corporation), and Maxim Integrated Products (Somaltus LLC v. Maxim Integrated Products Inc.).  The complaints were filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

Each lawsuit asserts U.S. Patent No. 7,657,386, entitled “Integrated battery service system (‘386 Patent).

The ‘386 Patent is  directed to an integrated battery service system that performs a plurality of services related to a battery, such as battery testing, battery charging, and the like. In addition, the integrated service system provides services to devices/components that are coupled to the battery, such as starters, alternators, etc.

The accused products are Universal Power Group’s 24 v 8 amp Premium Quality Heavy Duty XLR 3-pin off-board Sealed AGM, GEL Universal 24BC8000T-1 battery charger, Tenergy’s T-9688 Universal 4 By NiMh/NiCd Smart Chargers, and Maxim’s Max77301 JEITA-Compliant Li+ Charger with Smart Power Selector.

 

Marine Sewage Treatment

DeNora Water Technologies Texas, LLC v. H2O, Inc.

This lawsuit involves bookcell electrolyzer technology used for oxidizing sewage.

The asserted patent is U.S. Patent No. 6,379,525, entitled “Enhanced electrolyzer” and directed to an electrolyzer including a housing having an inlet and an outlet at a common end.  Within the housing are disposed electrode elements, a passageway that connects the inlet to the outlet, and a divider is disposed in the passageway between the inlet and outlet. The divider causes fluid entering the inlet to flow through one section of the passageway and then through another section of the passageway before exiting through the outlet.

The complaint was filed August 17, 2017 in federal court in Houston, Texas, and lists Defendant’s multi-pass bookcell electrolyzers as the accused products.

 

LEDs

Bitro Group Inc. v. Advanced Lighting Concepts, Inc.

Bitro sued Advanced Lighting Concepts (ALC) August 24, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey asserting infringement of U.S. Patent No. 9,113,558 (‘558 Patent).

The ‘558 Patent is entitled “LED mount bar capable of freely forming curved surfaces thereon” and directed to an LED tape light strip with a structure that allows it to be bent in the direction of its width so it can be used for lighting that must conform to unique shapes.

The accused product listed in Bitro’s complaint is Defendant’s CurrentControl Bendable ZigZag LED Strip Light.

 

Blackbird Tech LLC v. Ontel Products Corporation

Filed August 23, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, Blackbird’s complaint alleges that Ontel Products infringes U.S. Patent No. 6,883,927 (‘927 Patent).

Entitled “Frame assembly and light for an electrical wall conduit,” the ‘927 Patent is directed to a frame assembly for covering a wall conduit having a connection to electrical power.  The frame assembly comprises a light powered by an electrical circuit connected to the connection and a frame for housing the light.  The frame has an opening allowing access to the component through the frame, a side and an aperture in the side allowing the light to illuminate a space outside the frame assembly through the aperture.

The accused products are Ontel’s Night Angel electrical wall outlet covers.

 

Document Security Systems, Inc. v. Lite-On, Inc. et al.

Document Security Systems (DSS) filed this lawsuit against Lite-On August 15, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California asserting three LED patents.

The complaint contains a long list of accused products, e.g., many of Lite-On’s PLCC Series LED products, including both single color and multi-color lights.

The asserted patents are:

U.S. Patent No. 6,949,771, entitled “Light source”

U.S. Patent No. 7,524,087, entitled “Optical Device”

U.S. Patent No. 7,256,486, entitled “Packing device for semiconductor die, semiconductor device incorporating same and method of making same”

 

Technical LED Intellectual Property, LLC v. Osram Sylvania Inc.

Technical LED IP sued Osram on August 9, 2017 for alleged infringement of two patents relating to phosphor-based LED lights.  The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. RE41,685 (‘685 Patent) and 6,373,188 (‘188 Patent).

The ‘685 Patent is entitled “Light source with non-white and phosphor-based white LED devices, and LCD assembly” and directed to a light source incorporating phosphor-based white and non-white LEDs, which may be raised off the floor of the optical cavity to permit light to be emitted from the base of the LED.  A reflective protrusion may be placed beneath the raised LED to aid in redirecting light forward, and the LEDs may be skewed in relation to adjacent LEDs to reduce interference.

Entitled “Efficient solid-state light emitting device with excited phosphors for producing a visible light output,” the ‘188 Patent is directed to a solid-state light emitting device in which phosphors excited by radiation produce visible light.  The efficiency of the device is increased by providing a reflector adjacent to the phosphor layer for reflecting at least some of the radiation that passes through the phosphor back into the phosphor. The reflector may also reflect at least some of the visible light that is emitted by the phosphor toward a designated light output.

The accused products include, among others, Osram’s LEP-2100-840-HD-C,  LEP-2100-930-HD-C, LEP-800-840-HD-C, LEP800-930-HD-C, LED12A19/DIM/F/927, LCW CP7P-KPKR-5R8T, and LE CW E3B-NYPZ-QRRU models.

 

Green Pet Products

The Green Pet Shop Enterprises, LLC v. Unique Petz, Inc.

The Green Pet Shop Enterprises, LLC v. C&A Marketing, Inc.

The Green Pet Shop Enterprises, LLC v. European Home Design, LLC

The Green Pet Shop Enterprises, LLC v. Telebrands Corporation

These lawsuits involve pet pad technology that cools your pets without water or electricity.  These four complaints were filed August 16 and 17, 2017 in federal court in New Jersey and New York (THE GREEN PET SHOP ENTERPRISES, LLC v. C&A MARKETING, INC.; The Green Pet Shop Enterprises, LLC v. European Home Design, LLCTHE GREEN PET SHOP ENTERPRISES, LLC v. TELEBRANDS CORPORATIONThe Green Pet Shop Enterprises, LLC v. Unique Petz, Inc.).

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,720,218 and 9,226,474, both entitled “Pressure activated recharging cooling platform” and directed to a cooling platform comprising a temperature regulation layer, a support layer, and a channeled covering layer.  The temperature regulation layer is adapted to hold a composition and has a plurality of angled segments, wherein angled segments within a sealed perimeter of the temperature regulation layer are formed by a top side and a bottom side at a predefined distance, and channels, wherein the channels substantially form sides by contacting the top side with the bottom side at a distance lesser than the predefined distance.

The complaints allege that the defendants’ respective cooling mat products infringe the two patents.

 

Solar Powered Trash Compactors

BigBelly Solar, Inc. v. Ecube Labs Co.

In this lawsuit filed July 28, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, BigBelly asserts two patents relating to solar powered compaction technology.

U.S. Patent Nos. 7,124,680 and 7,481,159 are related patents, each entitled “Solar powered compaction apparatus” and directed to a trash compactor powered by a photovoltaic cell array.  The compaction feature allows the unit to be emptied less often than a typical trash container.  A removable bin allows easy removal of the compacted trash and can include multiple chambers for different trash types.

BigBelly’s complaint alleges that Ecube’s Clean CUBE product infringes the patents.

Wind Power

General Electric Co. v. Vestas Wind Systems A/S et al.

In this important wind industry lawsuit involving Zero Voltage Ride Through (ZVRT) technology, GE alleges that its Danish competitor, Vestas, infringes U.S. Patent No. 7,629,705 (‘705 Patent).

The ‘705 Patent is entitled “Method and apparatus for operating electrical machines” and directed to methods of facilitating zero voltage ride through so the turbine can remain online during voltage dips down to zero volts.

The complaint was filed July 31, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the District of California and lists the accused products as Vestas’ V90-3.0, V100-2.0, V112-3.0 and V117-3.3 wind turbines.

GE had a big win against Mitsubishi with this patent back in 2012.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

March 29th, 2017

Several new green patent complaints were filed in January and February in the areas of advanced batteries, waste-to-energy feedstocks, energy-efficient exercise equipment, and LEDs.

 

Advanced Batteries

Advanced Electrolyte Technologies LLC et al. v. ESDI LLC et al.

Advanced Electrolyte Technologies (AET) sued ESDI and several divisions of Samsung in a complaint filed January 18, 2017 in federal court in Austin, Texas.

AET alleges that the defendants infringe U.S. Patent No. 6,033,809 (‘809 Patent) and U.S. Patent No. 6,927,001 (‘001 Patent), which relate to electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries.

The ‘809 Patent is entitled “Lithium secondary battery and electrolyte thereof” and directed to non-aqueous electrolyte lithium secondary battery comprising a cathode, an anode and a non-aqueous electrolyte comprising an electrolyte dissolved in a non-aqueous solvent, wherein the solvent contains a cyclic carbonate, a linear carbonate, and a sultone derivative.

Entitled “Non-aqueous electrolyte solution and lithium secondary battery,” the ‘001 Patent is directed to non-aqueous electrolytic solution composed of two or more organic compounds dissolved in a solvent composed of a cyclic carbonate and a chain carbonate in which both of the organic compounds have a reduction potential higher than those of the cyclic and chain carbonates, and in which one of the organic compounds has a reduction potential equal to that of another organic compound or has a reduction potential lower or higher than that of another organic compound.

The complaint contains a long list of accused products including batteries used in the Samsung Chromebook 3 and 7 Spin, as well as batteries used in several Samsung Galaxy devices.

 

Somaltus LLC v. Cummins, Inc. et al.

Somaltus LLC v. Honeywell International, Inc.

Somaltus LLC v. Minn Kota, Inc.

Somaltus LLC v. Pro Charging Systems, LLC

Somaltus, a non-practicing entity, filed four new lawsuits on January 12, 2017, all federal court in Marshall, Texas, against Cummins (Somaltus v. Cummins), Honeywell (Somaltus v. Honeywell), Minn Kota (Somaltus v. Minn Kota), and Pro Charging Systems (Somaltus v. Pro Charging Systems).

Each suit asserts U.S. Patent No. 7,657,386, entitled “Integrated battery service system (‘386 Patent).

The ‘386 Patent is  directed to an integrated battery service system that performs a plurality of services related to a battery, such as battery testing, battery charging, and the like. In addition, the integrated service system provides services to devices/components that are coupled to the battery, such as starters, alternators, etc.

The accused products are the Cummins Energy Command (EC-30) power generation system, Honeywell’s 2.1 Amp Dual USB AC Charging Adapter, the 2.1 Amp Single USB AC Charging Adapter, and the Ovale 4.2 Amp Smart Charging Station, the Minn Kota Digital Onboard Charger, and the Pro Charging Systems Dual Pro Eagle Chargers.

 

Waste-to-energy Feedstocks

Accordant Energy, LLC v. Vexor Technology, Inc. et al.

In this lawsuit Accordant Energy accuses Vexor of infringing two patents relating to engineered feedstocks.

The patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 9,062,268 and 9,523,051, each entitled “Engineered fuel feed stock” and directed to feed stocks for use as gasification and combustion fuels and methods of making the feed stocks.  Components derived from processed MSW waste streams are used to make the feed stocks, which are substantially free of glass, metals, grit and noncombustibles.

Filed February 28, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the complaint names Vexor Engineered Fuel as the accused product.

Energy-Efficient Exercise Equipment

Green Fitness Equipment Co. v. Precor Inc.

It’s not every day you see patent litigation involving green exercising technology, but this one is about exactly that.

In a complaint filed February 8, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Southern Distric of California, Green Fitness alleges that Precor has incorporated its patented invention into its EFC Elliptical Cross-trainer products that include Active Status Light technology.

The patent-in-suit is U.S. Patent No. 8,884,553, entitled “Current monitor for indicating a condition of attached electrical apparatus” (‘553 Patent).

The ‘553 Patent is directed to a current monitor that indicates a condition of attached electrical equipment.  The current monitor can determine a predetermined range in which current being withdrawn by the attached electrical apparatus lies.  Based on the determined range, corresponding display electronic elements, such as light emitting diodes (LEDs), can be activated.

The commercial embodiment of Green Fitness’s patented invention is its Treadmill Saver product.

LEDs

Metrospec Technology LLC v. Hubbell Lighting, Inc.

This lawsuit was filed February 3, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.  The complaint asserts three patents relating to high intensity flexible light circuits.

The patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,143,631, 8,525,193 and 9,341,355, each entitled “Layered structure for use with high power light emitting diode systems.”

The asserted patents are directed to a layered structure comprising an electrically insulating intermediate layer interconnecting a top layer and a bottom layer.  The top layer, the intermediate layer, and the bottom layer form an at least semi-flexible elongate member which is bendable laterally to a radius of at least 6 inches, twistable relative to its longitudinal axis up to 10 degrees per inch, and bendable to conform to localized heat sink surface flatness variations having a radius of at least 1 inch.

Metrospec alleges that the NorFlex product offered by Hubbell’s Thomas Research Products division infringes the patents.

Unity Opto Technology Co. v. Cree, Inc.

Unity Opto Technology Co. v. Cree, Inc.

Unity Opto Technology (UOT) sued Cree twice in January, seeking a declaratory judgement that Cree’s U.S. Patent Nos. 8,596,819 (‘819 Patent), 8,628,214 (‘214) Patent),  8,998,444 (‘444 Patent) and 9,052,067 (‘067 Patent) are invalid and that UOT does not infringe the ‘067 Patent.

The ‘819 and ‘214 Patents are entitled “Lighting device and method of lighting” and directed to a lighting device which emits light with an efficacy of at least 60 lumens per watt, and up to at least 300 lumens in some embodiments, where the output light has a CRI Ra of at least 90.  The lighting device comprises at least one solid state light emitter, e.g., one or more light emitting diodes, and optionally further includes one or more lumiphor.

The ‘444 Patent is entitled “Solid state lighting devices including light mixtures” and directed to a solid state lighting apparatus including at least a first LED and a second LED.  The first LED emits light in the blue portion of the visible spectrum and red light in response to the blue light. The second LED emits light having a color point that is above the planckian locus of a 1931 CIE Chromaticity diagram, and in particular may have a yellow green, greenish yellow or green hue.

Entitled “LED lamp with high color rendering index,” the ‘067 Patent is directed to an LED lamp that can emit light with a color rendering index (CRI) of at least 90 without remote wavelength conversion.

The first complaint was filed January 3, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.  The second complaint was filed January 6, 2017 in the same court.

Solar Mounting Systems

Rillito River Solar, LLC v. Bamboo Industries LLC

In a lawsuit filed January 26, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Rillito sued Bamboo Industries LLC dba SolarHooks for alleged infringement of three patents relating to solar mounting systems.

The complaint lists SolarHooks’ Composition Flashing Kit as the accused product.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,153,700 (‘700 Patent), 9,134,044 (‘044 Patent) and 9,447,988 (‘988 Patent).

Entitled “Roofing system and method,” the ‘700 Patent is directed to a roof mounting system which includes a roof substrate and flashing supportable on the substrate and an outwardly extending projection having a concave interior side and an aperture extending through the projection between top and bottom surfaces of the flashing. A seal is provided that is conformable with the concave interior side and can define a seal aperture substantially aligned with the flashing aperture.

The ‘044 and ‘988 Patents are entitled “Roof mount assembly” and directed to a mount assembly which includes a flashing including an aperture, a bracket including a first portion and a second portion, the first portion having an opening and a countersink extending around the opening, the second portion extending at an angle away from the flashing, the second portion including a slot configured to be coupled to the structure, a fastener, and a seal extending around the aperture and positioned between the flashing and the first portion of the bracket, the seal engaging the countersink of the bracket and being compressed against the flashing.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

November 19th, 2015

Several new green patent complaints were filed in September and October in the areas of LEDs, smart grid, smart meters and wastewater handling.

 

Smart Grid

JSDQ Mesh Technologies LLC v. Silver Springs, Inc. and Pepco Holdings, Inc.

JSDQ filed a patent infringement lawsuit on September 10, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

This complaint accuses Silver Springs and Pepco of infringing three U.S. Patents Nos. 7,286,828 entitled “Method of Call Routing and Connection,” RE43,675 entitled “Wireless Radio Routing System,” and RE44,607 entitled, “Wireless Mesh Routing Method.”

The technology involved in the suit includes Silver Springs’ Smart Grid Mesh Network solutions, which the complaint alleges includes a wireless routing system and an Aerohive routing system used in conjunction with directional radio signals.

The complaint alleges Pepco is infringing the patents through its use of Silver Springs’ Smart Grid Mesh Network and associated products and services.

 

Smart Meters

 Transdata, Inc. v. Landis+Gyr, Inc. and Landis+Gyr Technology, Inc.

Transdata, Inc. v. Itron, Inc.

Transdata, Inc. v. General Electric Company and GE Energy Management Services, Inc.

On September 11, 2015, TransData filed three separate complaints in federal court in Tyler, Texas.

Each of the three complaints corresponds to a different defendant(s) (see the complaints here, here, and here), but each complaint asserts the same three patents.  These complaints follow a long list of consolidated “smart meter” cases, and in each complaint, Transdata notes that the defendant(s) indemnified and/or defended other defendant(s) in the earlier consolidated cases.

Two of the asserted patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 6,181,294 (‘294 Patent)and 6,462,713 (‘713 Patent) are related and entitled “Antenna for Electric Meter and Manufacture Thereof.”  The third patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,903,699, entitled “Wireless Communication Device for Electric Meter and Method of Manufacture Thereof,” is a continuation-in-part of ‘713 and continuation of ‘294.

These patents describe an electric meter capable of bi-directional communication over a wireless network.  The meter is equipped with wireless communication circuitry and an antenna allowing the meter to wirelessly send usage data to a remote location and wirelessly, receive operational instructions from the remote location.

For a more detailed discussion of the patented meter technology and discussion of earlier case, see our previous post here.

Numerous industrial and residential electric meters made by the defendants are at issue in these cases.

The Landis+Gyr products include residential meters containing the Landis+Gyr Gridstream RF Mesh Residential Endpoint; industrial and commercial meters containing Landis+Gyr Gridstream RF Mesh Commercial  and Industrial Endpoint; and meters with the AMI communication modules and antenna.

The Itron and General Electric meters include various residential and industrial meters equipped with under-the-glass wireless communication modules and meters with the AMI communication modules and antenna.

 

LEDs

Global Tech LED, LLC. V. Every Watt Matters, LLC and DRK Enterprises, Inc.

Global Tech LED, LLC V. Hilumnz International Corp., Hilumnz, LLC and Hilumnz USA, LLC

Global Tech LED filed a complaint against Every Watt Matters and DRK (“EWM”) on September 14, 2015 and a complaint against Hilumnz on September 15, 2015.

Both complaints were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida and allege the defendant(s) infringed U.S. Patent No. 9,091,424, entitled “LED Light Bulb.”

The patent pertains to an LED device that can replace or retrofit a light bulb in an electrical socket.  The LED device has a screw connector for screwing into a light bulb socket.  A bracket connects the screw portion to the housing, which holds one or more LEDs.  The housing can rotate to direct the light from the LED and contains an electrically powered cooling fan to dissipate heat generated by LED.

Both complaints allege EWM and Hilumnz offer for sale infringing LED lamp products.  The Hilumnz complaint also alleges that Hilumnz offers for sale various Retrofit Kits.

 

Wastewater Handling

Liberty Pumps Inc. v. Franklin Electric Co., Inc.

On October 23, 2015, Liberty Pumps Inc. (“Liberty”) filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.  The complaint alleges Franklin Electric Co. Inc. (Franklin) is infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 8,523,532 (‘532 Patent) and 8,888,465 (‘465 Patent) entitled, “Sewage Handling System, Cover and Controls.”

The ‘532 and ‘465 Patents describe a basin/pump assembly for moving liquids such as sewage.  If a bathroom is lower than a household sewer effluent pipe, this assembly would pump the bathroom wastewater to the level of sewer effluent pipe.

The assembly has a basin with a bottom, sides and a hanging feature formed into the basin.  The hanging feature has a hanging portion with a level switch.  A pump is disposed in the basin.  Also, the basin may have a cover assembly that can be fastened to the open top of the basin.

The accused products include Franklin’s LittleGIANT Pit+Plus Sewage Basin.

 

Jayne Saydah is a registered patent attorney with experience prosecuting patent applications for a broad range of technologies.  She has a B.S. in Environmental Engineering and an interest in protecting the intellectual property rights of any environmentally conscience inventions and businesses.

Diverting Organic Waste and Recyclables with Integrity

May 27th, 2015

Integrity Waste (IW) is full service waste management company that specializes in collection and disposal of organic waste.  Based in Novato, California, Integrity Waste has implemented programs to handle waste in Foster City, San Rafael, Concord, and Union City.

I recently spoke with Ron Falcon, the company’s CEO, about IW’s services.  He told me that IW sorts residential waste and recycling so that harmful organic waste does not end up in landfills. To the extent recyclable materials are in the waste stream, the company also removes those, so each respective stream is “cleaner” and “less contaminated.”

IW’s business model involves teaming with municipalities to manage and dispose of organic waste, recyclables, and/or compostables in accordance with local requirements.  IW trains employees to separate the waste.

One of the important and underserved markets for these services, according to Falcon, is multi-family apartment communities.  For these and other residential communities, IW provides doorstep valet collection of waste, where the residents place the waste materials out at the allotted time and the company collects them, removes recyclables and organic waste, and takes the materials to the proper locations.

Alternatively, IW places bins on site in the residential community.  Each resident can get a compost pail and take the waste to the proper locations.  In such arrangements, IW manages the waste at the point of disposal.

When asked about intellectual property, Falcon admitted the company hasn’t thought much about branding.  However, IW does have an attractive logo (top), and Falcon told me a new one is nearly ready for release.  He didn’t provide a copy of the new design, but said it includes a man with a pail that looks like a toolbox.

One major issue IW has to be aware of is communicating clearly exactly what services it provides and the environmental benefits conferred.  Accordingly, the company is “very careful” about what it says.  Falcon said they “underpromise and overdeliver” in their communications and services.

Instead of claiming absolute numbers or percentages of organic waste properly disposed of or of recyclables actually recycled, the company communicates ranges of pounds diverted from landfill.  Last year, for example, IW helped clients divert 600,000-725,000 pounds of waste in Northern California alone.

He also noted that the company’s activities are monitored by the municipalities, by the waste haulers, and by the multifamily residences.

Falcon noted that despite the existence of recycling programs, IW’s services are sorely needed.  Even in communities that have recycling programs, multi-family residences don’t have recycling bins, he said. “This is the future.”

On Green Patenting, Sewage Sludge, and EPA Rulings and Regulations

February 25th, 2014

Environmental regulations can, of course, impact the development and implementation of green technologies.  This can happen on an industry level, for example, when automobile fuel efficiency technology is improved in response to rising CAFE standards.

It can also happen on a smaller scale and affect one company at a time, such as MaxWest Environmental Systems (Maxwest), which has developed gasification technology to break down sewage sludge.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently ruled that MaxWest’s patented gasifier is not an incinerator and therefore will not be regulated as such.  According to the company, this means the technology can be developed and implemented at a lower cost to municipalities (see the press release here).

MaxWest owns at least one patent and one published patent application relating to its gasification technology.  U.S. Application Publication No. 2013/0195727 (‘727 Application) is entitled “Fluidized bed biogasifier and method for gasifying biosolids” and directed to a gasifier and methods of gasifying biosolids obtained from sewage sludge.

A fluid bed gasifier (200) includes a bubbling reactor bed section (204) which receives sewage sludge through feed inlets (201) and flue gas through a flue gas inlet (203).  The gasifier has a freeboard section (205) between the reactor bed section (204) and the outlet (210) of the gasifier.

 

A cyclone separator (207) separates material exhausted from the fluidized bed reactor into clean producer gas for recovery and ash for disposal.  An oxygen monitor (209) may be used to help control oxygen levels in the gasification process together with a producer gas control (208), which monitors oxygen and carbon monoxide levels in the producer gas.

It appears that the control of oxygen levels was critical to the EPA ruling.  According to the ‘727 Application, the biogasification process occurs in an “oxygen starved environment” which prevents combustion.  Because there is no combustion, the gasifier is not classified as an incinerator.

An older gasifier technology is described and claimed in MaxWest’s U.S. Patent No. 7,793,601 (‘601 Patent), issued in 2010 from an application filed back in 2005.   The ‘601 Patent is entitled “Side feed/centre ash dump system” and directed to an apparatus for gasifying solid fuel where the biomass feed material is introduced into the primary oxidation chamber (400) through in opening (408) in the side of a wall (402) or in the floor of the chamber (400).

The wall (402) has multiple layers, and the innermost layer (405) is made of a high-temperature refractory material capable of withstanding elevated temperatures.  According to the ‘601 Patent, the wall (402) is therefore capable of allowing oxidation of biomass while maintaining a tolerable skin temperature on the outside of the wall.

Chrysler Clear as Court Holds ECODIESEL Mark Merely Descriptive

October 17th, 2013

 

I’ve written extensively (see, e.g., here and here) on the descriptiveness hurdles faced by owners of eco-marks containing terms such as “CLEAN”, “GREEN” and “ECO”, including this author and his blog service mark (see, e.g., here and here).

A recent decision by a federal court in Hawaii provides a window into the fate of a hopelessly merely descriptive mark – ECODIESEL for diesel fuel made from used oil.

Unitek Solvent Services (Unitek) is a Hawaii-based corporation that focuses on recycling, reclamation, and re-use of used oil.  When Unitek began looking into ways to convert used oil into reusable fuel, its president decided on the term ECODIESEL to brand its processed diesel fuel.

In late 2005, Unitek filed a federal trademark application for the ECODIESEL mark.  The application was registered on the Supplemental Register as U.S. Trademark Registration No. 3,166,981 for “diesel fuel” and fuel for motor vehicles, namely diesel.”

By contrast with the Principal Register, the Supplemental Register offers lesser protections but also has lower standards for registrability, including permitting registration of merely descriptive marks.

A mark that is merely descriptive of the goods or services it is being used to market or sell is not registrable on the Principal Register without demonstrating secondary meaning, i.e., that consumers have come to associate the mark with the source of the goods or services.

After Chrysler began marketing some of its vehicles with optional diesel engines under a stylized ECODIESEL design (see above), Unitek sued Chrysler in federal court in Hawaii and moved for a preliminary injunction.

In a recent decision, the court denied the motion and held that Unitek’s ECODIESEL mark is merely descriptive and has not acquired secondary meaning. 

The mark is descriptive, the court held, because it requires no mental leap to determine what goods the mark refers to and instead immediately conveys to the consumer those goods:

The Court holds that no mental leap is required in order to conclude that ECODIESEL is a reference to a diesel fuel product that is more ecological than normal diesel fuel.  Unitek concedes that one well-accepted meaning of “eco” is “environmental friendliness,” and does not argue that the term “diesel” in ECODIESEL is anything other than a generic reference to diesel fuel.  Combining the terms, no imagination is required to discern that this term references ecologically-conscious diesel…not even a mental hop is necessary to link ECODIESEL with Unitek’s fuel product…Thus, the ECODIESEL mark is descriptive.

On acquired distinctiveness, or secondary meaning, Unitek provided evidence that it sells all of the ECODIESEL fuel it produces.  The problem was that all the fuel is sold to just one customer, and that cannot constitute enough consumer recognition to demonstrate secondary meaning:

this uncontroverted evidence actually hurts Plaintiff’s case more than it helps because it is undisputed that Unitek sells all of its ECODIESEL fuel to a single customer, Grace Pacific.  This evidence weighs against a determination of secondary meaning because it illustrates the very limited number of customers who have actually ever purchased Unitek’s fuel product and who may have come to associate ECODIESEL with Unitek.  Although Grace Pacific may associate ECODIESEL with Unitek, this is insufficient to establish that a signficant segment of the relevant public would make the same association.

Absent secondary meaning, the ECODIESEL mark was merely descriptive and not entitled to protection.  The court, therefore, denied Unitek’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

On Environmental Crimes and Greenwashing 2.0

September 9th, 2013

Incidents of greenwashing continue apace, increasingly in the realm of what I call Greenwashing 2.0, i.e., misrepresentations in business dealings relating to commercial clean tech equipment and services as opposed to marketing consumer products.

A Colorado company called Executive Recycling, Inc. (ERI) and some of its officers were recently sentenced to imprisonment and fines for fraud and international environmental crimes (see the DOJ’s Colorado office press release here).  ERI was in the business of recycling electronic waste such as cathode ray tubes (CRTs). 

According to the press release, ERI falsely represented that the company would dispose of all electronic waste in an environmentally friendly manner, in accordance with EPA, state and local laws and regulations, and would do so in the United States.

Contrary to its representations, the company sold the electronic waste it received to brokers for export overseas to China and other countries.  ERI did this on a significant scale, being listed as the exporter of record on over 300 exports between 2005 and 2008, including exports of more than 100,000 CRTs.

U.S. Attorney John Walsh noted both the harm to the environment and the damage to ERI’s customers caused by the fraudulent activity:

The defendants in this case not only caused actual harm to the environment by shipping electronic waste overseas for dumping, they defrauded their customers by falsely claiming to be disposing of that waste in an environmentally safe way.

This Greentech Media story reports that the FBI is investigating a number of fraud complaints against a Missouri solar installer called U.S. Solar. 

The central allegations involve abuses of the Missouri Public Service Commission’s solar rebate program, specifically, instances in which the installer allegedly pocketed rebate checks that were supposed to go to customers who had the solar energy systems installed.

In one case, U.S. Solar allegedly installed solar panels on a customer’s roof that an independent installer later assessed to be too shaded for solar energy production.  The independent installer said the roof has “a significant amount of shaded panels and a lot of exposed wires” and the system should be reinstalled.  The customer did not receive his rebate check.

U.S. Solar’s rebate abuses may have contributed to utility Kansas City Power and Light prematurely reaching the $21 million cap on solar rebates.  According to a Solar Energy Industry Association representative quoted in the Greentech Media piece, there should be a full investigation:

We need to determine the extent of U.S. Solar’s bad practices and how much they might have impacted the rebate program.

In my opinion, these cases are properly viewed as a greenwashing because they involve false or misleading statements and/or deceptive activity relating to the environmental benefits of a produce or service.  

Most discussions of greenwashing are unduly restricted to cases in which an individual consumer, a class of consumers, or a consumer watchdog such as the FTC challenges a company making false or misleading green claims about its products or services.

To put greenwashing in its proper context I think we should consider a wider range of cases, some of which are not immediately recognizable as instances of greenwashing, including civil cases brought by commercial consumers and criminal cases brought by governmental authorities.

From this broader vantage point, and keeping in mind the definition of greenwashing – making false or misleading claims about purportedly environmentally friendly products, services, or practices – we are able to recognize, observe and understand greenwashing in its proper context.

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

August 8th, 2013

The second part of this green patent complaint update covers the period mid-June through most of July, during which several new complaints were filed in the areas of biofuels, components for hybrid and electric vehicles, LEDs, energy efficiency, solar air conditioners, water technology, and waste treatment.

 

Biofuels

GS Cleantech Corp. v. Western New York Energy, LLC

GS Cleantech recently filed another lawsuit, this one against Western New York Energy in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York on July 12, 2013. 

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,601,8588,008,516, and 8,283,484, each entitled “Method of processing ethanol byproducts and related subsystems,” and U.S. Patent No. 8,008,517, entitled “Method of recovering oil from thin stillage.”  The patents relate to methods of recovering oil from byproducts of ethanol production using the process of dry milling, which creates a waste stream comprised of byproducts called whole stillage.

According to the complaint, Western New York uses infringing processes performed by ethanol production plants purchased from a plant designer called ICM.  ICM was involved in prior litigation with GS.

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

 

Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

Northern Cable and Automation, LLC v. General Motors Co.

This is a dispute over ownership and inventorship of U.S. Patent No. 7,976,333, entitled “Laminar electrical connector” (‘333 Patent) and directed to an electrical connector specifically designed for use in hybrid and electric vehicles.

According to the complaint, filed in the Eastern District of Michigan on July 11, 2013, GM claims that one of its employees should be named as a co-inventor on the ‘333 Patent and that Northern Cable, d/b/a, Flex Cable is obligated to assign certain rights in the patent to GM.

Flex Cable alleges that the inventor, Erwin Kroulik, conceived of the invention of the ‘333 Patent before the date of an agreement with GM, and therefore Flex Cable is not obligated to assign any rights in the ‘333 Patent to GM. 

 

LEDs

Trustees of Boston University v. Apple, Inc.

On July 2, 2013 BU filed another lawsuit in federal court in Boston, continuing its patent enforcement campaign against various LED makers and electronics manufacturers.  The complaint again asserts U.S. Patent No. 5,686,738 (’738 Patent). 

The ’738 Patent is entitled “Highly insulated monocrystalline gallium nitride thin films” and directed to gallium nitride semiconductor devices and methods of preparing highly insulating GaN single crystal films in a molecular beam epitaxial growth chamber.

The accused products are the iPhone 5, iPad, and MacBook Air that include allegedly infringing LED devices.

 

Energy Efficiency

Efficiency Systems, LLC v. Cisco Systems, Inc.

Efficiency Systems, LLC v. Dell Inc.

Efficiency Systems, LLC v. IBM Corp.

Efficiency Systems, LLC v. Oracle Corp. et al.

On June 28 and 29, 2013, Efficiency Systems fired off four patent infringement suits in federal court in Delaware against Cisco (Cisco complaint), Dell (Dell complaint), IBM (IBM complaint), and Oracle (Oracle complaint).

Each complaint asserts U.S. Patent No. 6,986,069, entitled “Methods and apparatus for static and dynamic power management of computer systems” (‘069 Patent).  The ‘069 Patent is directed to a power authority system for manipulating the aggregate power consumption levels of multiple computer systems by managing the power consumption levels of the computer systems.

The accused systems include various server systems, computer systems and components containing power management features.

 

Solar Air Conditioners

Sedna Aire USA Inc. v. Eco Solar Technologies, Inc.

Sedna Aire recently sued Eco Solar for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,448,458, alleged cybersquatting, and alleged passing off in connection with use of the mark SOLAR COOL (and Design).

The ‘458 Patent is entitled “Solar collector and solar air conditioning system having the same” and directed to a solar air conditioning system including a solar collector.  The system superheats working fluid using radiant energy from the sun and delivers the working fluid as a superheated and higher-pressure gas to a condenser within the solar air conditioning system.

Filed June 24, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the complaint alleges that Eco Solar is selling a solar air conditioner based on Sedna’s patented design and engaging in unauthorized use of the SOLAR COOL trademark.

 

Water Purification

Aquatech International Corp. v. Veolia Water West Operating Services, Inc. et al.

On June 27, 2013, Aquatech filed a complaint against Veolia in the Western District of Pennsylvania, alleging infringement of two patents relating to water purification technology.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 5,925,255 and 6,537,456, each entitled “Method and apparatus for high efficiency reverse osmosis operation.”  The patents relate to Aquatech’s HERO water purification process, a high efficiency reverse osmosis water purification process which is used in many industries including power generation, petrochemical, and microelectronics. 

The accused process is Veolia’s OPUS technology, which the complaint alleges Veolia is using in various locations including a Chevron oil production field in San Ardo, California and the Arroyo Grande Oilfield in San Luis Obispo County, California.

 

Waste Treatment

Trunzo v. Grobstein

In this suit filed June 25, 2013 in federal court in Los Angeles, Michael Trunzo sued the trustee for the bankruptcy estate of debtor International Environmental Solutions Corporation (IES) and purchasers of IES’s assets for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5,868,085 (‘085 Patent).

Entitled “Pyrolytic waste treatment system,” the ‘085 Patent is directed to a system for pyrolysis of hydrocarbon constituents of waste material including a heating chamber in communication with the atmosphere via a first valve and in communication with a pyrolysis chamber via a second internal valve.

The complaint alleges that the defendants have infringed the ‘085 Patent by reverse engineering a waste-to-energy unit, and the defendants have issued a distributorship/developers license to defendant Wayne Herling for the purpose of marketing, distributing and selling the the allegedly infringing units.

Green Off-Patent Report (Powered by Cleantech PatentEdge)

April 20th, 2012

Our Green Off-Patent Report provides selected highlights of green patents which completed their 20-year term and expired within the last week or so (assuming the patentee paid all requisite maintenance fees; U.S. patents require payment of fees 3 1/2, 7 1/2, and 11 1/2 years after issuance to stay in force).

Many of the green technologies in use today are off-patent, i.e., the patents covering the technologies have run their 20-year term and expired.

Knowing which technologies are off-patent is important because those technologies are in the public domain and can be exploited by anyone.  It’s also interesting because it provides a window into what was cutting edge technology twenty years ago.

The green off-patent searching is performed by Cleantech PatentEdge™.

U.S. Patent No. 5,354,477 (Water Purification) entitled “Low Molecular Weight Amines and Amine Quaternaries for the Removal of Soluble Organics in Oil Field Produced Water.”  The patent describes a method for removing hydrocarbons from water by injecting low molecular weight amines and preferably amine quaternaries with strong acids into an oil and water mixture to remove oil based salts.  Filed April 7, 1992; issued October 11, 1994; expired April 7, 2012.

U.S. Patent No. 5,324,433 (Soil/Water Restoration) entitled “In-situ Restoration of Contaminated Soils and Groundwater.”  The patent describes a method for removing and stabilizing in-situ soluble heavy metal contaminants from soil and groundwater by injecting an aqueous solution of naturally occurring ions.  The solution solubilizes the heavy metals into solution where they can be removed.  Filed April 16, 1992; issued June 28, 1994; expired April 16, 2012.

U.S. Patent No. 5,261,970 (Photovoltaic Cells) entitled “Optoelectronic and Photovoltaic Devices with Low-Reflective Surfaces.”  The patent describes photovoltaic devices with low angle ‘V’ shaped grooves on the target surfaces.  The grooves increase the efficiency of the devices by promoting internal reflection of light from the target surface at the interface of the coverglass.”  Filed April 8, 1992; issued November 16, 1993; expired April 8, 2012.

U.S. Patent No. 5,260,588 (LEDs) entitled “Light Emitting Diode.”  The patent describes a light emitting diode formed as reverse mesas with mirrored sloping surfaces which reflect light in the direction of the light emitting diode surface, improving the efficiency of each diode.  Filed April 14, 1992; issued November 9, 1993; expired April 14, 2012.

U.S. Patent No. 5,317,979 (Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction) entitled “Method and Apparatus for the Complete, Dry Desulphurization of Combustion Waste Gases Comprising SO2 and Dust.”  The patent describes a method for removing SO2 from the combustion waste gases of coal dust.  The process includes heating the gas quickly to a temperature below the sintering temperature of the fly ash, then cooling the gas to a temperature where the distance between the temperature and the dew point is low and is below 25 degrees C.  This binds the SO2 gas to the ash, cleaning it from the combustion waste gas.  Filed April 16, 1992; issueed June 7, 1994; expired April 16, 2012.

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.

Enough NOxious Gases: Biogas & Electric Cuts Emissions from Anaerobic Digesters

April 13th, 2012

 Biogas & Electric, located in San Diego, California, has developed technology that reduces harmful emissions created during anaerobic digestion.

Anaerobic digestion may serve as a renewable energy source, and reduce methane when utilized at wastewater treatment plants, dairies, and landfills. Seth Burns was intrigued by benefits of turning waste to a resource, but realized one of the biggest challenges for the anaerobic digester industry was to reduce the harmful emissions generated by the process.

Stringent standards enforced by the California Air and Resources Board (CARB), and other regional air boards require the reduction of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emitted during the anerobic digestion process. NOx is known to cause an array of health problems including asthma.

In an effort to make the anaerobic digestion process more environmentally sound, Mike Matelich, process chemist and inventor of the process, and Burns partnered to develop a way to reduce NOx and SOx emissions.

The technology is an add-on solution to the biogas engine. The add-on puts the biogas engine exhaust in contact with the liquid waste stream from the anaerobic digester.

“Mike determined that certain chemicals are endogenous to the waste stream, such as ammonia, which can scrub the NOx out of the exhaust stream,” stated Burns.

The bench scale prototype chemical reaction that occurs reduces NOx and SOx, the precursors to smog and acid rain respectively, by greater than 95% each.

Burns and Matelich hope to replicate these results in the field at full scale. The following diagram outlines the process:

U.S. Patent No. 8,012,746, entitled “NOx Removal Systems for Biogas Engines at Anaerobic Digestion Facilities,” describes the Biogas and Electric technology (‘746 Patent).

According to Burns, a provisional patent application was filed at the end of December 2009. The non-provisional, filed September 15, 2010, enjoyed accelerated examination via the now-defunct U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Green Technology Pilot Program (GTPP) (read about some fast track alternatives post-GTPP here). The ‘746 Patent issued September 6, 2011, just under a year from the non-provisional filing date.

The company has received funding from USDA-NIFA SBIR Phase I and Phase II research grants and from Waste Management. A full-scale dairy-based demonstration project is being constructed in Imperial County, California. The technology will be utilized on a 300 kW biogas engine.

Previous technologies have only been able to reduce NOx to 9ppm, but Burns and Matelich are confident that their technology will be able to reduce NOx emissions enough to meet the stringent CARB standard of 2 ppm.

Burns and Matelich plan to build a demo project within the wastewater treatment industry, and begin installing their solution for revenue.

* Rosemary Ostfeld is a contributor to Green Patent Blog.  Rosemary recently completed both her undergraduate and graduate education at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.  She double majored in Biology, and Earth & Environmental Sciences as an undergraduate, and received her Master’s in Earth & Environmental Sciences.