Archive for the ‘Recycling & Waste Management’ category

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

March 8th, 2012

 

There have been several green patent complaints filed in the past few weeks in the fields of hybrid vehicles, solar power, LEDs, and wastewater treatment.

 

Hybrid Vehicles

Paice LLC et al. v. Hyundai Motor Company et al.

On February 16, 2012, Paice filed suit against Hyundai and Kia in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division.  The Paice-Hyundai_Complaint alleges Hyundai and Kia infringed three of Paice’s patents relating to hybrid vehicles.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,237,634, 7,104,347, and 7,559,388.  All three patents are entitled “Hybrid Vehicles”.  The patents cover hybrid electric vehicles utilizing an internal combustion engine with series parallel electric motors, regenerative braking, and control circuitry.

Paice claims all three patents are infringed in Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid and Kia’s Optima Hybrid vehicles and seeks both injunctive relief and monetary damages.

This case is a major return to patent enforcement for Paice.  The company settled its litigation with Toyota in 2010 after Toyota agreed to take a license to Paice’s entire patent portfolio.

 

Solar Power

Solannex, Inc. v. Miasole, Inc.

Filed on February 21, 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, Solannex’s Complaint (Complaint) alleges that Miasole infringes two of its patents relating to photovoltaic cells.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent No. 8,076,568 entitled “Collector Grid and Interconnect Structures for Photovoltaic Array and Modules:, and U.S. Patent No. 8,110,737 entitled “Collector Grid Electrode Structures and Interconnect Structures for Photovoltaic Arrays and Methods of Manufacture”.

According to the complaint, the two patents relate to “interconnections of multiple photovoltaic cells.”  Solannex asserts that several products in Miasole’s MR-Series and MS-Series product lines are infringing.  Solannex is seeking both injunctive relief and monetary damages.

Solannex sued Miasole in January 2011 over a related patent

 

LEDs

Toyoda Gosei Co., Ltd. v. Formosa Epitaxy, Inc.

On February 21, 2012, Toyoda filed a complaint against Formosa in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, alleging infringement of eight patents relating to LEDs.

According to the complaint (Toyoda_Gosei_Complaint), the following three patents describe, among other things, “a light-emitting semiconductor device … designed to improve luminous intensity and to obtain a purer blue color”:

U.S. Patent No. 6,005,258 entitled “Light-Emitting Semiconductor Device Using Group III Nitrogen Compound Having Emission Layer Doped with Donor and Acceptor Impurities”;

U.S. Patent No. 6,265,726 entitled “Light-Emitting Aluminum Gallium Indium Nitride Compound Semiconductor Device Having an Improved Luminous Intensity”; and

U.S. Patent No. 7,138,286 entitled “Light-Emitting Semiconductor Device Using Group III Nitrogen Compound” (‘286 Patent).

The complaint describes the following patent as “a light-emitting semiconductor device having an improved metal electrode and semiconductor structure that lowers the driving voltage of the device”:

U.S. Patent No. 5,753,939 entitled “Light-Emitting Semiconductor Device Using a Group III Nitride Compound and Having a Contact Layer upon which an Electrode is Formed”.

The following two patents are described as a “method of manufacturing a semiconductor light-emitting device”:

U.S. Patent No. 6,040,588 entitled “Semiconductor Light-Emitting Device”; and

U.S. Patent No. 6,420,733 entitled “Semiconductor Light-Emitting Device and Manufacturing Method Thereof”.

Finally, the complaint describes the following patents as “’LED[‘s] ha[ving] a thin highly resistive or insulative layer formed below an electrode pad in order to divert current flow from the region below an electrode pad’ to obtain better current efficiency”:

U.S. Patent No. 6,191,436 entitled “Optical Semiconductor Device”; and

U.S. Patent No. 6,933,169 entitled “Optical Semiconductor Device”.

Toyoda is seeking both injunctive relief and monetary damages.

 

Solar Power / LEDs

Jiawei Technology (USA) et al. v. Adventive Ideas, LLC.

On February 8, 2012, Jiawei filed a complaint for declaratory judgment of invalidity and non-infringement (Jiawei_Complaint) against Adventive in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.  Jiawei is seeking judgment declaring Adventive’s patents invalid and, in the alternative, that they have not been infringed.

The patents at issue are U.S. Patent Nos.:

7,196,477, entitled “Solar Powered Light Assembly to Produce Light of Varying Colors”, describing a garden light which has three different colored LEDs that are activated to produce a varying color light;

7,336,157, entitled “Illuminated Wind Indicator”, which provides for a solar powered visual indicator of wind motion at night by way of an illuminated pendulum assembly in a wind chime;

7,429,827, entitled “Solar Powered Light Assembly to Produce Light of Varying Colors”, which relates to a garden light which has three LEDs that are activated to produce a varying color light;

7,967,465, entitled “Light Device” which describes a solar powered light enclosed in a translucent housing;

8,077,052, entitled “Illuminated Wind Indicator”, which describes a solar powered visual indicator of wind motion at night by way of an illuminated pendulum assembly in a wind chime;

8,089,370, entitled “Illuminated Wind Indicator”, which provides a visual indicator of wind motion at night by way of an illuminated wind chime and associated circuitry; and

8,104,914, entitled “Light Device”, which describes a solar powered light device with at least one power storage device and associated circuitry.

 

Wastewater Treatment

Aero-Stream, LLC v. Septicair Aid, LLC et al.

On February 24, 2012, Aero-Stream filed a complaint for patent infringement (Aero-Stream_Complaint) against Septicair Aid in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Aero-Stream asserts Septicair infringes several of its patents relating to septic wastewater treatment systems by offering for sale a “Quad Diffuser Aeration Kit” and “Economy Diffuser”.

The patents at issue are U.S. Patent Nos.:

7,264,727, entitled “Septic System Remediation Method and Apparatus,” describing an apparatus and method of remediating a failing wastewater treatment system;

7,429,320, entitled “Wastewater Treatment System,” describing an apparatus and method of remediating a failing wastewater treatment system;

7,468,135, entitled “Portable Tank Wastewater Treatment System and Method” describing a portable wastewater treatment system comprising a wastewater holding tank and a generator positioned to provide oxygen, or ozone, or a combination of the two to the interior of the holding tank; and

7,718,067 entitled “Septic System Remediation Method and Apparatus” describing an apparatus and method of remediating a failing wastewater treatment system.

Aero-Stream is seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages.

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.

Danish Greenwash: Metal Industry Group Defeats Plastic Packager in False Advertising Case

February 15th, 2012

An interesting piece on FoodProductionDaily.com reports on a recent decision involving greenwashing (and apparently reverse greenwashing) claims in Denmark.

The ruling by the Danish Maritime Court is the culmination of a dispute that began in 2008 after Empac, a European metal packaging industry group, sued RPC Superfos, accusing the Danish plastic packaging company of making false or misleading environmental claims in marketing literature.

In particular, Empac alleged that certain statements about the environmental benefits of plastic versus the negative environmental impact of metal packaging were inaccurate and unsubstantiated. 

According to the article, the Danish court agreed with Empac and found the statements to be inaccurate and unsupported, including invalid statements relating to carbon dioxide emissions.  Althought the court did not order Superfos to pay any damages, the company is prohibited from making certain claims and using certain images detrimental to metal packaging producers.

The court decision stressed the importance of the accuracy of environmental claims in advertising:

To prevent unfair competition strict requirements for accuracy of such environmental claims must apply.  These have to be clear, true, specific and not misleading and have to be substantiated by an impartial expert.

The article quotes Jim Hansen, secretary general for the Danish Aluminum Association, which represented Empac in the case, as calling it important to “have on record that Superfos acted in contravention of the advertising guidelines.”

Hansen also mentioned that advertisers should be careful about life cycle analysis claims, especially those relating to an industry outside the realm of the advertising firm:

Life cycle analyses usually center on someone’s own material.  But if you do make statements about another industry’s material you should be careful.

Which brings us to reverse greenwashing.  In a previous post I discussed this increasingly common phenomenon.

Greenwashing is advertising that misleads consumers about the environmental benefits of goods or services.  For example, making unsubstantiated claims about better energy efficiency or lower environmental impact.

Reverse greenwashing, on the other hand, consists of false or deceptive claims about the negative environmental impact of competitors’ products, such as the detrimental effects of metal containers on the environment.

Reverse greenwashing typically arises in the context of comparative advertising of environmentally friendly aspects of products or services, essentially comparative green advertising.  

I’m sure we’ll see much more of it as the market of green products and service becomes increasingly crowded and firms need to differentiate themselves from their competitors to sell their wares.

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.

 

LEDs

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.

Stating its Case: California Asserts New Law Against Alleged Plastic Bottle Greenwashers

November 25th, 2011

 

Most public enforcement against alleged greenwashing has been at the federal level by agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S., the Advertising Standards Authority in Great Britain, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Now American states are getting into the act, with a recent lawsuit filed by California’s Attorney General Kamala D. Harris involving claims of recyclable, compostable and biodegradable plastic bottles.

The complaint (Cal-ENSO_Complaint), brought on behalf of the people of California, accuses ENSO Plastics (ENSO), Balance Water Company (Balance) , and Aquamantra of making false, deceptive, and misleading claims that plastic bottles which include a particular resin made by ENSO will biodegrade or decompose in a landfill or other environment.

Among the marketing statements by ENSO alleged to be false or misleading and/or unsubstantiated are:

ENSO plastic bottles are “truly biodegradable”

“ENSO bottles biodegrade through natural microbial digestion in both aerobic (compost) and anaerobic (landfill) environments”

“ENSO bottles are recyclable with traditional PET [plastic]”

“Our scientific data supports that ENSO bottles will not contaminate PET recycle streams as the material used does not impact the PET polymer in any way”

According to the complaint, statements on Balance’s bottles such as “100% biodegradable recyclable” and will “break down in a typical landfill or compost environment in less than 5 years” are false or misleading and unsubstantiated.

The complaint cites similar statements by Aquamantra, including “our bottles are made of 100% biodegradable & recyclable plastic” and the bottles “can be composted and will break down in around 240 days.”

The central cause of action in the suit is a recent California state law that banned the use of the terms “biodegradable,” “degradable,” or “decompostable” in any form in connection with plastic food or beverage containers.

Enacted in 2008, AB 1972, requires that food or beverage containers labeled with the term “compostable” or “marine degradable” must meet certain statutory standards. 

This is the first lawsuit to enforce the new law, which the California legislature said is intended to ensure that:

environmental marketing claims, including claims of biodegradation, do not lead to an increase in environmental harm associated with plastic bag and plastic container litter by providing consumers with a false belief that certain bags and containers are less harmful to the environment if littered.

Along with private consumer actions and public enforcement by federal government agencies, legal action by the states adds another level of enforcement against greenwashers.

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.

 

Solar

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.

Plastic Bag Makers Do a Reversal in Reverse Greenwash Suit

October 4th, 2011

 

In previous posts here and here I wrote about a lawsuit in which plastic bag manufacturers Hilex Poly Company (Hilex), Superbag, and API Enterprises took issue with certain statements made by ChicoBag, the popular reusable bag maker.

The accusations could be called reverse greenwashing, as they involved allegedly false or misleading statements not about environmental benefits, but about the negative environmental impact of certain products. 

Specifically, the plastic bag makers alleged that ChicoBag made false or deceptive claims about the consumption, recycling, and negative environmental impact of plastic bags and has falsely indicated that the claims are substantiated.

ChicoBag countered that the statements at issue were made by third party sources such as the Environmental Protection Agency, National Geographic, and the Los Angeles Times, and simply repeated by ChicoBag, with attribution, on its web site.

In what ChicoBag and some in the eco-blogosphere are calling victory, Superbag and API agreed to dismiss the case (Superbag-API-Dismissal), and the remaining plaintiff, Hilex, settled with ChicoBag (HilexPoly-Dismissal).

According to ChicoBag’s press release, Hilex has agreed to properly cite recycling statistics and undertake certain measures to reduce windblown litter, and both parties will be more careful and even-handed in their marketing statements. 

Some of the settlement terms are:

Both parties will provide citations and dates for all facts and statistics on any web page or advertising;

Hilex will include a statement on its products “Tie Bag in Knot Before Disposal” and statements on its web site about ways to prevent windblown litter;

ChicoBag will keep updates about some of the statements at issue in the suit up on its web site;

ChicoBag will not cite any archived EPA web sites; and

ChicoBag will inform visitors to its Learn the Facts web page that plastic retail carryout bags are only a subset of plastic bags in ocean debris reports.

ChicoBag’s President Andy Keller said the settlement marks two wins for the environment:  “First, Hilex Poly can no longer inflate plastic bag recycling numbers by including non-bag wrap and plastic film.  And they have also agreed to acknowledge that plastic bags can become windblown litter despite proper disposal and to better educate the public.”

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:

 

Biofuels

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.

 

LEDs

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.

 

Solar

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.

ChicoBag Responds to Plastic Bag Makers in Reverse Greenwash Suit

September 6th, 2011

 

A previous post discussed a recently-filed lawsuit in which plastic bag manufacturers Hilex Poly Company, Superbag, and API Enterprises took issue with certain statements made by ChicoBag, the popular reusable bag maker.

The accusations could be called reverse greenwashing, as they involve allegedly false or misleading statements not about environmental benefits, but about the negative environmental impact of plastic products.

ChicoBag recently responded, at least in the court of public opinion. 

In a press release entitled “Bag Wars:  Plastic Bag Giants Sue Reusable Bag Entrepreneur for Loss of Sales (Environmental Community Outraged),” ChicoBag addresses the plastic bag makers’ accusations head on and suggests the suit should be viewed as part of the plastics industry’s strategy of silencing the competition.

The crux of the plastic bag makers’ complaint (Hilex_Complaint) is that ChicoBag has made a number of false or deceptive claims about the consumption, recycling, and negative environmental impact of plastic bags and has falsely indicated that the claims are substantiated.

However, according to the press release, the statements at issue were made by third party sources such as the Environmental Protection Agency, National Geographic, and the Los Angeles Times, and simply repeated by ChicoBag, with attribution, on its web site.

Moreover, Andy Keller, the inventor of ChicoBag and the company’s president, told me that the plastic bag makers’ complaint actually altered the wording of some of the statements.

In particular, while some of the statements actually relate to the environmental impact of plastic products generally, the plastic bag makers inserted the word “bags” into the statements with the result that the complaint falsely presents them as claims about plastic bags.

The press release also notes that litigation is a favored tactic by plastic bag manufacturers and their coalitions and associations such as the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, which has filed suits against the communities of Marin County, Palo Alto, Manhattan Beach, and Los Angeles County.

According to Keller, “Plastic bag manufacturers and their ‘non-profit’ associations, along with their trade association, the American Chemistry Council, have spent millions of dollars trying to persuade voters and elected officials to vote against single-use bag legislation.”

With respect to the current lawsuit, Keller doesn’t think it is really about the facts.  Instead, he said, “I believe it is simply a way for the industry to squash the competition and scare all of us into silence.”

Plastic Bag Makers Accuse ChicoBag of Reverse Greenwashing

July 18th, 2011

 

Greenwashing has come to mean making false or deceptive representations about environmentally friendly aspects of products, services or practices. 

The vast majority of greenwashing legal actions target product or service providers touting their wares in such a way that misleads consumers about the environmental benefits of those goods or services by, for example, making unsubstantiated claims about better energy efficiency or lower environmental impact.

However, in a twist that might be called reverse greenwashing, a new lawsuit focuses on alleged false or deceptive claims about the negative environmental impact of competitors’ products.

Specifically, plastic bag makers Hilex Poly Company, Superbag, and API Enterprises accuse ChicoBag, which markets its reusable bags as eco-friendly alternatives to single use plastic bags, of making false, misleading and unsubstantiated claims about the consumption, recycling, and environmental impact of plastic bags.

According to the second amended complaint (Hilex_Complaint), filed in federal court in Columbia, South Carolina, ChicoBag has made several false or deceptive claims in its advertising and promotion, and has falsely indicated that the claims are substantiated.  The disputed claims include:

the statement that only one percent of plastic bags are recycled;

the statement that “somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year”

the statements that “the world’s largest landfill can be found floating between Hawaii and San Francisco” and “this ‘landfill’ is estimated to be twice the size of Texas” and the “landfill” is comprised of “mostly plastic bags”;

the statements that “[e]ach year hundreds of thousands of sea birds and marine life die from ingestable [sic] plastics mistaken for food” and that such plastics are comprised mostly of plastic bags.

The plaintiffs also allege that some of ChicoBag’s assertions about its own reusable bags are false or misleading, such as the statement that its products are superior to plastic bags and that a reusable bag needs to be used only eleven times to have a lower environmental impact than using eleven disposable bags.

The complaint asserts one federal cause of action for false advertising under the Lanham Act and another for violations of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act.

It seems likely that some of the disputed statements will be deemed permissible advertising puffery. 

However, green consumers deserve accurate and substantiated information not only in connection with the environmental benefits of products they may want to purchase, but also the reverse – with respect to the environmental detriment of products they may wish to avoid.

Enerkem Turns Waste to Energy at a Cool 700 Degrees

July 1st, 2011

Enerkem is a Montreal, Canada-based company that designs, manufactures, owns and operates waste-to-biofuels plants. 

Enerkem takes municipal waste and, through gasification and catalytic synthesis, converts it into advanced biofuels.  The company calls its process “carbon recycling” to signal that it takes carbon that would otherwise stay trapped in the waste and converts it to useful fuels and chemicals.

Enerkem owns at least three international patent applications relating to its gasification technology, including Publication No. WO 2009/132449 (‘449 Application), entitled “Production and conditioning of synthesis gas obtained from biomass.”

The ‘449 Application is directed to methods of producing and treating synthesis gas, or syngas, in which a biomass-rich feedstock is passed from a conveyor belt (1) through rotary valves (2a, 2b) into a feed screw (3).  (The ‘449 Application contains only one figure, which is huge and incredibly detailed.  I’ve reproduced a small portion of the figure below).

An oxidizing agent, such as air, is passed into the feed screw (3) from line (4).  The feed screw (3) passes the biomass feedstock and the oxidizing agent into a fluidized bed section (7b) of the gasifier (7).

According to Enerkem’s web site, the technology is based on a bubbling fluidized bed reactor capable of handling fluffy material without the need to pelletize it.  The gasifier can operate at low severities (i.e., temperatures of about 700º C and pressures below 10 atm), which reduces costs by allowing inexpensive construction materials to be used.

Solid residues that cannot be processed further are passed through line (8) and valves (9a, 9b) into a drum (1), and the remaining crude syngas is subjected to controlled oxidation in the freeboard section (7a) of the gasifier (7).

The crude syngas is then cleaned and conditioned in a cyclone (12), which separates out the char.  The crude syngas exits the cyclone (12) through line (16) and is passed to a thermal reformer (18), where it is contacted with more gasification agents, and then sent to a heat recovery unit (20).

Ultimately, using a catalytic conversion process, the syngas is converted into fuels and chemicals, such as methanol, ethanol, synthetic diesel, synthetic gasoline, or dimethyl ether.

At least one major oil refiner likes what it sees in the Enerkem technology:  the company recently announced a $60 million funding round from Valero (see Cleantechies article here).