Archive for the ‘Water Filtration’ category

Supremes’ Alice Ruling Drowns Water Treatment Patent

November 10th, 2015

A Green Patent Complaint Update post reported on the patent infringement suit between Neochloris and Emerson Process Management Power & Water Solutions.  Citgo was also named as a defendant.

In the lawsuit, Neochloris accused Emerson and Citgo of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,845,336 (‘336 Patent).

The ‘336 Patent is entitled “Water treatment monitoring system” and directed to a monitoring system to receive data from water sensors, analyze water quality conditions inputted by the sensors and predict effluent water quality and process upsets.  The monitoring system includes an artificial neural network module to determine solutions to actual and potential water quality and process upsets.

The defendants jointly moved for summary judgment that the ‘336 Patent is invalid because it covers non-patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  Section 101 of U.S. patent law delineates the broad categories of subject matter deemed eligible for patent protection.

These comprise “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof…”

Generally excluded from eligibility are laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas.  Patentable subject matter has been in flux for the last several years and recent case law has rendered previously eligible areas such as business methods and software very difficult to patent.

In a recent decision, Judge Edmond E. Chang of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted the summary judgment motion, ruling that the ‘336 Patent protects an unpatentable abstract idea.

The court’s decision began with a summary of the asserted claims of the ‘336 Patent, stating that they describe a method for:

  1. collecting data at a water treatment plant;
  2. sending the data over an internet connection to a computer;
  3. monitoring and analyzing the data with an ordinary computer and software; and
  4. alerting the facility of any abnormalities.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice v. CLS Bank decision laid out the current analysis for determining patentable subject matter under Section 101.  The first question is whether the claims are “directed to a patent ineligible concept” on their face.  If so, the second question is whether the claims nonetheless contain an “inventive concept” that can make the concept a patent eligible invention.

Judge Chang concluded that the claims of the ‘336 Patent cover an abstract idea:

[A]t bottom, the claims cover the general process of observing, analyzing, monitoring, and alerting that can be done entirely by the human mind and by using pen and paper….the Federal Circuit has determined that collecting and processing data is an abstract idea.

The court went on to find that the claims do not contain any inventive concept.  Neochloris argued that the claims have three patent-eligible inventive features:  the use of computers and software, the ability to predict future failure events, and the ability to reduce human error.

However, the court found all of these functions to be conventional and that the claims of the ‘336 Patent merely recite basic computer functions:

[T]he ‘336 patent employs any “monitoring computer” and any “software” to perform basic computer functions.  The computer and software simply make routine calculations to monitor and analyze water data.  The claims are not limited to any particular software or hardware, and this generic technology has no special capabilities that “improve the functioning of the computer itself” or “effect an improvement in any other technology or technical field.”  Because the addition of a computer and software in the ‘336 patent “does no more than require a generic computer to perform generic computer functions,” this generic technology does not save the ‘336 patent.

Similarly, the ability of the patented system to predict future failure events, even if it is better than could be done by a human operator, is not inventive:

There is no inventive concept when a computer just replicates what a person can do, only more quickly and accurately.

Finally, the court found that reducing human error “only describes the generic ability of a computer to work more accurately and does not make the claim inventive.”

With software so integral to so many environmental and other green technologies, this surely is not the last we’ll see of Alice impacting green patents.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

February 3rd, 2015

Several new green patent complaints were filed in late 2014 (late October, November, and December) in the areas of environmental remediation, LEDs, green dry cleaning solvents, and smart grid.


Environmental Remediation

Peroxychem LLC v. Innovative Environmental Technologies, Inc.

Peroxychem sued Innovative Environmental Technologies (IET) for patent infringement in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Filed November 7, 2014, the complaint alleges that IET infringes U.S. Patent No. 7,785,038 (‘038 Patent).

The ‘038 Patent is entitled “Oxidation of organic compounds” and directed to methods and compositions for treating organic compounds present in soil and groundwater involving the use of a composition comprising a solid state, water soluble peroxygen compound and zero valent iron.

According to the complaint, IET’s activities at a site called Hexcel in Lodi, New Jersey infringe the ‘038 Patent.


Neochloris, Inc. v. Emerson Process Management Power & Water Solutions, Inc. et al.

Filed December 3, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Neochloris’s complaint alleges that Emerson infringes U.S. Patent No. 6,845,336 (‘336 Patent).

The ‘336 Patent is entitled “Water treatment monitoring system” and directed to a monitoring system to receive data from water sensors, analyze water quality conditions inputted by the sensors and predict effluent water quality and process upsets.  The monitoring system includes an artificial neural network module to determine solutions to actual and potential water quality and process upsets.

According to the complaint, Emerson’s Delta V System infringes the ‘336 Patent.



Harvatek Corporation v. Cree, Inc.

Just weeks after Cree sued Harvatek for infringement of six patents relating to white light LED technology, Harvatek responded with a lawsuit of its own.  Harvatek filed a complaint December 5, 2014 in the Northern District of California, asserting one patent against Cree.

Entitled “Reflection-type light-emitting module with high heat-dissipating and high light-generating efficiency,” U.S. Patent No. 8,079,737 is directed to a reflection-type light-emitting module that includes a reflection-type lampshade unit with an open casing and a reflective structure formed on the open casing.

The accused products include the Cree LRP-28 series LED lamp.


Green Dry Cleaning Solvents

GreenEarth Cleaning, L.L.C. v. Personal Touch Valet Wholesale Bronx, Inc.

Kansas City-based GreenEarth Cleaning holds a number of patents directed to its environmentally friendly dry cleaning methods and solvents.  On December 23, 2014, GreenEarth sued Personal Touch Valet for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5,942,007 (‘007 Patent).

The ‘007 Patent is directed to methods and systems of dry cleaning articles comprising several steps including immersing the articles to be dry cleaned in a dry cleaning fluid including a cyclic siloxane composition.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, alleges that Personal Touch Valet is in breach of a license agreement with GreenEarth and is infringing the ‘007 Patent and several other related patents.

GreenEarth previously sued Glyndon Laundry for patent and trademark infringement.


Smart Grid

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. Leviton Manufacturing Co., Inc.

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. Eaton Corporation

On October 31, 2014, Endeavor MeshTech (a wholly-owned subsidiary of patent monetization firm Endeavor IP) filed two more patent infringement complaints.  One was filed against Leviton Manufacturing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (Endeavor v. Leviton), and the other against Eaton in the Northern District of Ohio (Endeavor v. Eaton).

The complaints accuse each defendant of infringing three patents in a family – U.S. Patent Nos. 7,379,981  8,700,749, and 8,855,019, each entitled “Wireless communication enabled meter and network.”  The patents-in-suit relate to a self-configuring wireless network including a number of vnodes and VGATES.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

November 19th, 2014

Several new green patent lawsuits were filed in the last couple of months in the areas of LEDs, smart grid technologies, concentrated solar power, solar inverters, green dry cleaning solvents, and water treatment.



Cree, Inc. v. Harvatek Corporation et al.

North Carolina LED maker Cree filed a couple of patent infringement suits in September and October.  In the first, Cree sued Harvatek for alleged infringement of six patents relating to white light LED technology.  The complaint was filed September 15, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

Three of the asserted patents are of a first patent family and share the same title.  Another two are part of a second family and share a title.  The patents-in-suit are as follows:

U.S. Patent No. 6,600,175, entitled “Solid state white light emitter and display using same”

U.S. Patent No. 7,943,945, entitled “Solid state white light emitter and display using same”

U.S. Patent No. 8,659,034, entitled “Solid state white light emitter and display using same” (‘034 Patent)

U.S. Patent No. 7,910,938, entitled “Encapsulant profile for light emitting diodes” (‘938 Patent)

U.S. Patent No. 8,766,298, entitled “Encapsulant profile for light emitting diodes” (‘298 Patent)

U.S. Patent No. 8,362,605, entitled “Apparatus and method for use in mounting electronic elements”

The complaint alleges that a number of Harvatek’s white LED products infringe the patents.

Cree, Inc. v. Honeywell International Inc.

The second suit accuses Honeywell of infringing the ‘034, ‘938, and ‘298 Patents as well as U.S. Patent No. 8,860,058, entitled “Solid state white light emitter and display using same.”

Filed in the Western District of Wisconsin on October 28, 2014, the complaint alleges that Honeywell’s Automation and Control Systems and Aerospace business units are selling infringing products using Cree’s patent white LED technology for backlighting.

The accused products include liquid crystal display devices in Honeywell’s Aviation Lighting and Cockpit Displays, Environment & Combustion Controls, Scanning and Mobility devices, and Measurement and Control Systems as well as certain programmable thermostat products.

Smart Grid

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. EnergyHub, Inc.

On October 14, 2014, Endeavor MeshTech (a wholly-owned subsidiary of patent monetization firm Endeavor IP) filed a patent infringement complaint against Brooklyn-based EnergyHub in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The complaint (Endeavor complaint part_1Endeavor complaint part_2) accuses EnergyHub of infringing three patents in a family – U.S. Patent Nos. 7,379,981  8,700,749, and 8,855,019, each entitled “Wireless communication enabled meter and network.”  The patents-in-suit relate to a self-configuring wireless network including a number vnodes and VGATES.

According to the complaint, EnergyHub’s self-configuring wireless network marketed and sold under the name of its Mercury platform infringe the patents.


Concentrated Solar Power

Schott Solar CSP GmbH v. SkyFuel, Inc. et al.

Schott filed suit against SkyFuel and Weihai Golden Solar October 23, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.  The complaint alleges infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,013,887 (‘887 Patent) relating to solar absorption receivers used in certain concentrated solar power (CSP) applications.

Entitled “Absorber pipe for solar heating applications,” the ‘887 Patent is directed to an absorber pipe having a central metal pipe, a sleeve tube, folding bellows, and an expansion compensation device that connects the metal pipe and sleeve tube so that they can slide relative to each other.

According to the complaint, the defendants sell infringing receivers and/or build and install CSP plants incorporating infringing receivers.


Solar Inverters

Enphase Energy, Inc. v. SolarBridge Technologies, Inc.

Inverter maker Enphase Energy sued SolarBridge, alleging infringement of three patents relating to solar inverter technology.  The complaint was filed October 10, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,768,155 and 8,035,257, both entitled “Method and apparatus for improved burst mode during power conversion” and U.S. Patent No. 7,986,122, entitled “Method and apparatus for power conversion with maximum power point tracking and burst mode capability.”

The patents relate to systems and methods for converting DC power generated by solar panels to AC power for the electric grid and includes methodology for storing energy and drawing energy during burst periods and controlling burst modes to improve efficiency in low sunlight conditions.

The accused products are SolarBridge’s Pantheon microinverter and TrueAC module.

Green Dry Cleaning Solvents

GreenEarth Cleaning, L.L.C. v. Glyndon Laundry, Inc. d/b/a Glyndon Lord Baltimore Cleaners

Filed September 22, 2014 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, GreenEarth’s complaint accuses Glyndon of, among other things, patent and trademark infringement.

GreenEarth alleges that Glyndon is infringing its “base” patent – U.S. Patent No. 5,942,007 (‘007 Patent) – as well as nine other patents which are “variations” of the ‘007 Patent.  The ‘007 Patent is entitled “Dry cleaning method and solvent” and directed to methods of dry cleaning clothes using a cleaning fluid including a cyclic siloxane composition.

GreenEarth also accuses Glyndon of infringing its trademarks including its leaf and water droplet logo:

According to the complaint, GreenEarth licensed its trademarks and patented processes to Glyndon, but Glyndon stopped paying the requisite fees after August 2013 and continued to use the licensed intellectual property.

Water Treatment

Deerpoint Group, Inc. v. Acqua Concepts, Inc. (DBA Ag Water Chemical of California)

Deerpoint, a provider of water treatment solutions for the agriculture industry, sued Acqua and two former Deerpoint employees in federal court in Fresno, California.

Filed September 25, 2014, the complaint accuses Acqua of infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 6,238,573 (‘573 Patent) and 7,638,064 (‘064 Patent) and alleges that its former employees misappropriated trade secrets including confidential products and services, client lists, and pricing information.

The ‘573 Patent is entitled “Water treatment” and directed to a process for producing chlorine for water treatment including blending calcium hypochlorite and water  to form a saturated solution of calcium hypochlorite and a sink of calcium hypochlorite and feeding chlorinated water to a water supply.

The ‘064 Patent is verbosely titled “Continuously feeding chlorine to the irrigation system, monitoring an outer field point to determine whether at least a detectable level of residual chlorine is seen at that point, whereby chlorination disinfection system-wide is achieved.”

Floating Island Patent Portfolio Combines Clean and Green

July 2nd, 2014

Floating Island International (FII) is a Montana-based company that has developed technology for creating islands that can effectively support plant and animal life (full disclosure:  FII is a client of my firm and FII CEO Bruce Kania agreed to be interviewed for this post).

The company’s BioHaven® 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.

According to Kania, what differentiates FII from other floating treatment wetland providers is that FII’s islands are made of massive biofilm grown within a matrix that includes microbes and their residue, with high volumes of trapped biogas.  Put another way, the company’s floating islands “incorporate nature’s models to solve problems with water.”

While other floating island technologies achieve buoyancy through use of buoyant chambers in a raft, FII used either buoyant nodules or foam sealant interspersed within the matrix.

FII’s patent portfolio includes a number of worldwide patent families focusing on different aspects of the company’s technology, including:

U.S. Patent Nos. 8,327,579 and 8,250,808 and U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2011/0146559 (‘559 Application), each entitled “Super enhanced, adjustably buoyant floating island.”  These patents and applications are directed to floating islands comprising at least one layer of water-permeable, non-woven mesh material and including different innovative features for achieving and adjusting the buoyancy of the islands, such as pressure injected foam sealant.  Figure 4 of the ‘ 559 Application is reproduced here:

U.S. Patent No. 8,372,277, entitled “Floating treatment streambed,” is directed to a floating streambed including a circulation pump and treatment channels made of a permeable matrix.  The water entering the treatment channels flows both horizontally through the treatment channel and into the water body and also vertically downward through the permeable matrix of the treatment channels.

U.S. Patent 7,784,218 is entitled “Combination cell foam floating island” and directed to a floating island comprising a flat sheet insert in the matrix layers of the island that traps gas underneath the insert.  A representative figure is reproduced below:

U.S. Patent No. 8,132,364, entitled Highly buoyant and semi-rigid floating islands,” is directed to an island made of two modules where each module has a semi-rigid internal frame, a bottom layer, and a semi-permeable top layer.  The island has a planting pocket disposed between the first and second modules and supported by the semi-rigid frames.
U.S. Patent No. 7,810,279 is entitled “Buoyant wetland system” and directed to a simulated wetland system that includes a plant habitat that is normally submerged and has a first and second buoyant blanket assembly.  Each buoyant blanket assembly comprises a non-woven mat that includes buoyant bodies.  The plant habitat is comprised of a container of a non-woven mat  that encircles a portion of growth medium.  A representative figure is reproduced below:

FII’s patent portfolio forms the foundation of the company and is critical for its success spreading its technology around the world.  As Kania told me, “without IP and an ability to enjoy a limited monopoly on behalf of its license holders, our ability to forward in the undeveloped world is minimal.”

The company has entered into a number of licensing deals.  Partners and potential partners are “intrigued and energized for a clean tech solution to water quality issues.”  FII’s licensees include a variety of people and business entities that have business dealings around water, particularly wetland work, but also include companies involved in plastics recycling and stone masonry.

Though FII’s path is a “departure from conventional green technology efforts” because it’s not about renewables or conservation per se, its technology is making an impact and is most definitely green.

NanoH2O’s Patented Particular Membranes Improve Economics of Desalination

November 22nd, 2013

NanoH2O is a Los Angeles-based startup that has developed a new membrane material for use in reverse osmosis (RO) desalination.  While RO is an established technology, its economic viability hinges on the properties and performance of the membrane.

NanoH2O’s CEO, quoted in this Greentech Media article, put it this way:  “A more productive membrane allows less energy to be used and provides higher throughput.”

The company owns at least five U.S. patents and applications relating to its membrane technology, which uses nanomaterials to boost permeability.  This is important because a more permeable membrane allows more fresh water through with less pressure from an energy-driven pump.

U.S. Patent No. 8,177,978 (‘978 Patent) is entitled “Reverse osmosis membranes” and directed to reverse osmosis membranes incorporating nanoparticles and processes for preparing the membranes.  In different embodiments, the nanoparticles are incorporated into various layers of the membrane.

In Figure 1 of the ‘978 Patent, RO membrane (10) has nanoparticles (16) dispersed in the aqueous phase layer (14) on the upper surface of the support membrane (12).  The organic phase layer (18) interacts with the aqueous layer (14), and polymerization occurs at the interface of these two layers.

According to the ‘978 Patent, the nanoparticles release metal species, resulting in improved fouling resistance and increased flux:

In some embodiments, nanoparticles may be selected for their ability to release metal species such as alkaline earth or aluminum ions. Such particles may be dispersed within either the aqueous layer 14 or the organic phase layer 18, or both. Additional nanoparticles may also be present to impact surface properties or further increase performance, for example to improve fouling resistance. . . .By dispersing aluminum releasing nanoparticles 16 in the aqueous or polar solvent 14 and/or organic phase layer 18 before interfacial polymerization, increased flux is often observed, especially when nanoparticles 16 are processed to enhance solubility of metal ions.

The membrane (10) shown in Figures 2-4 has nanoparticles or other insoluble carriers (16) in difference locations, i.e., in the organic phase / layer (18), in both the aqueous layer (14) and the organic layer (18), and/or in a layer between the aqueous layer (14) and the support membrane (12).

In one embodiment, RO membrane (10) has nanoparticles (22) in the fabric layer (20) that forms the backing of the membrane, making the backing more mechanically robust so it can be made thinner than conventional backings.  There are also nanoparticles (16), which may be the same or different from nanoparticles (22), in the discrimination layer (24).

According to the Greentech Media piece, NanoH20 plans to build a manufacturing facility in China, where its desal technology is badly needed.

Aussie “Soccer Ball” Scores Twice with Wave Energy and Fresh Water

September 30th, 2013

Carnegie Wave Energy (Carnegie) is an Australian company that develops and commercializes wave energy technology that can not only provide power but also desalinated water.

Carnegie says it will build the world’s first wave-powered desalination plant that will generate energy as well as fresh water (see CleanTechnica article here).

The company’s CETO technology includes a buoyant acuator design rated at 240kW.  The technology is covered by at least one international, or PCT, patent application, Publication No. WO 2009/076712 (‘712 Application).

Entitled “Buoyant actuator,” the ‘712 Application is directed to a wave energy apparatus (11) including a buoyant actuator (19) with an exterior surface and an interior that is substantially hollow except for a buoyant internal support structure. 

A major advantage of the technology, according to the ‘712 Application is that the substantially hollow nature of the buoyant actuator makes it “lightweight compared to prior art floats.”

The exterior surface comprises a plurality of facets (101), which are tessellated to “create the generally spherical shape (somewhat similar to that of a soccer ball)…”  According to the ‘712 Application, one embodiment of the apparatus has 36 facets, of which 12 are pentagonal and 24 are hexagonal. 

The apparatus is installed for operation in a body of seawater (12) having a water surface (13) and a seabed (14), and exterior surface of the apparatus has a plurality of openings for fluid flow between the hollow interior and the surrounding body of water.

Pumps (15) are anchored within the body of water (12), attached to a base (17) anchored to the seabed (14), and operatively connected to the buoyant actuator (19) by a coupling (21) including a tether (23).  Each pump (15) is activated by movement of the buoyant actuator (19) in response to wave motion.

The pumps (15) provide high pressure water, which can be used for power generation and/or desalination.  Indeed, Carnegie’s desalination pilot project at the Garden Island naval base near Perth will use the high pressure water to operate reverse osmosis desalination technology.

This will be a world first, according to the CleanTechnica piece, and an elegant clean tech double bill.



Three Strikes and Aquatech’s Out as Court Bounces DJ Action Again

September 5th, 2013


A previous post discussed Aquatech‘s declaratory judgment (DJ) action against Water Systems and Veolia Water seeking a judgment that U.S. Patent No. 7,815,804 (‘804 Patent) is invalid and unenforceable and that Aquatech’s water filtration processes do not infringe the ’804 Patent.

The ‘804 Patent is entitled “Method for treating wastewater or produced water” and relates to Veolia’s OPUS process, a high-efficiency water purification technology that uses reverse osmosis to treat industrial waste streams.

Aquatech claims that the defendants have coerced and intimidated its potential partners and customers under threat of patent litigation, particularly with respect to Aquatech’s proposal to use its patented HERO water purification process at a power plant to be constructed by Bechtel and a proposal for a project at the Pio Pico Energy Center.

The court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss Aquatech’s initial complaint for lack of DJ jurisdiction, and subsequently dismissed its amended complaint on the same ground.  Aquatech filed a second amended complaint in March 2013, adding a claim for tortious interference.

Recently, the court for the third time granted defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of DJ jurisdiction. 

To establish declaratory judgment jurisdiction there must be a “case or controversy,” that is “a substantial controversy between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment.”

According to the court, during the course of the legal proceedings the defendants executed four covenants not to sue, which formed, at least in part, the basis for all three of the court’s decisions.

The second covenant waived defendants’ right to assert any infringement claim related to the proposed Bechtel process.  The third covenant more broadly waived defendants’ right to assert that the patented HERO processes infringe the ‘804 Patent.  Finally, the fourth covenant waived defendants’ right to assert infringement claims with respect to the proposed Pio Pico Energy Center process.

The court found that defendants’ “multiple covenants not to sue preclude plaintiffs from maintaining declaratory judgment jurisdiction”  because covenants relate to Aquatech’s HERO process and demonstrate that the defendants believe the process does not infringe the patent-in-suit:

[T]he covenants at issue in this case are written and memorialized and cover both past, present, and future infringement claims with respect to the HERO process generally, and specifically the Bechtel project and Pio Pico Energy Center project processes….the covenants not to sue in this case merely affirm defendants’ repeated assertions that they do not believe that the HERO Patents infringe the ‘804 Patent.

Accordingly, the court dismissed Aquatech’s DJ claim of non-infringement because the covenants “moot[s] the basis for declaratory judgment relief.” 

With respect to Aquatech’s DJ claims that the ‘804 Patent is invalid and unenforceable, they also had to be dismissed because they are defenses to infringement:

 Without an active case or controversy with respect to defendants’ patent rights in the ‘804 Patent, plaintiffs’ claims of invalidity and unenforceability must also be dismissed.  Invalidity and unenforceability are defenses to a claim of infringement.  Until plaintiffs can establish that there is a real and immediate threat that defendants will take action to enforce their rights with respect to the ‘804 Patent, plaintiffs cannot continue to assert defenses to such claims.

This decision closes the case on infringement and related defenses for now.  Aquatech could bring another DJ action only if the defendants make new threats of infringement in derogation of the covenants not to sue.

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.



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. 



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.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

June 9th, 2012

There have been several green patent complaints filed in the past several weeks in the fields of biofuels, LEDs, solar power, and industrial water purification.



Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC v. Gevo, Inc.

On May 15, 2012, Butamax filed suit against Gevo in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware alleging Gevo is infringing one of its patents related to the production of isobutanol using recombinant microorganisms. 

This suit is the latest in the expanding litigation between Gevo and Butamax (see, e.g., previous posts here, here, here, here, and the post on Butamax’s opening shot).

The asserted patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,178,328, entitled “Fermentive Production of Four Carbon Alcohols” (‘328 Patent).  The ‘328 Patent is the latest in a family of patents – including U.S. Patent Nos. 7,993,889 and 7,851,188  – that Butamax has been asserting against Gevo.

According to the Butamax complaint, the ‘328 Patent discloses and claims certain recombinant microbial host cells comprising an engineered isobutanol biosynthetic pathway.

Butamax alleges that Gevo uses recombinant microbial host cells capable of producing isobutanol that embody the invention in the ‘328 Patent, and that Gevo’s U.S. Patent No. 8,097,440 includes examples of such infringing host cells.

Gevo is seeking a judgment that Gevo infringes the ‘328 Patent, preliminary and permanent injunctions, and monetary damages.


Neste Oil Oyj v. Dynamic Fuels, LLC et al.

Neste Oil Oyj filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware on May 29, 2012 against Dynamic Fuels, Syntroleum Corporation and Tyson Foods, alleging Defendants’ synthetic renewable diesel fuels infringe U.S. Patent No. 8,187,344 (‘344 Patent).

The ‘344 Patent is entitled “Fuel Composition for a Diesel Engine” and directed to diesel fuels made from animal, plant, or fish fatty acids.

Dynamic Fuels is a joint venture of Syntroleum and Tyson Foods that operates refineries capable of producing allegedly infringing synthetic renewable diesel fuels using the necessary biological feedstock.

According to the Neste complaint, the Dynamic Fuels plant has produced substantial volumes of the accused product over the past couple of years.

Neste  is seeking a judgement of infringement of the ‘344 Patent, a permanent injunction, and monetary damages.



Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation et al. v. Power Integrations, Inc.

Filed May 1, 2012 in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation and System General Corporation’s (collectively “Fairchild”) complaint alleges that Power Integrations infringes four patents owned by Fairchild:

U.S. Patent No. 7,525,259, entitled “Primary Side Regulated Power Supply System With Constant Current Output” (‘259 Patent);

U.S. Patent No. 7,286,123, entitled “LED Driver Circuit Having Temperature Consideration” (‘123 Patent);

U.S. Patent No. 7,616,461, entitled “Control Method and Circuit with Indirect Input Voltage Detection by Switching Current Slope Detection” (‘461 Patent); and

U.S. Patent No. 7,259,972, entitled “Primary-Side-Control Power Converter Having a Switching Controller Using Frequency Hopping and Voltage and Current Control Loops” (‘972 Patent).

Fairchild alleges that Power Integrations’ LinkSwitch-PH controllers infringe the ‘259, ‘123, and ‘461 Patents.

According to Fairchild’s complaint, Power Integrations’ LinkSwitch-II and Linkswitch-CV devices were previously found to infringe claims 6, 7, 18, and 19 of the ‘972 Patent.  

However, Fairchild alleges that the same day, Power Integrations issued a press release encouraging customers to continue using the infringing products by stating that its customers are unaffected by the verdict. As such, Fairchild claims that Power Integrations is now inducing infringement of claims 6, 7, 18, and 19 of the ‘972 Patent.

Fairchild is seeking a judgment of infringement, an injunction, and monetary damages.


Ruud Lighting, Inc. v. Cooper Lighting, LLC

On May 23, 2012, Ruud Lighting filed suit against Cooper Lighting in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin seeking a permanent injunction and monetary damages for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,952,262 (‘262 Patent).

Entitled “Modular LED Unit Incorporating Interconnected Heat Sinks Configured to Mount and Hold Adjacent LED Modules,” the ‘262 Patent is directed to a modular LED unit including one or more LED modules, each bearing an array of LEDs and secured to a heat sink.

Ruud manufactures and sells numerous LED products embodying the invention of the ‘262 Patent for area and street lighting applications and certain floodlight lighting products.

According to the Ruud complaint, Cooper sells a product known as its “Generation Series LED Post Top Luminaire,” which infringes the ‘262 Patent.



Rena GMBH v. M.E. Baker Company

Rena GMBH filed suit against M.E. Baker Company on May 3, 2012 in  the United States District Court for the Central District of California.  Rena is alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,943,526, entitled “Process for the Wet-Chemical Treatment of One Side Silicon Wafers” (‘526 Patent).

The ‘526 Patent is directecd to a process for wet-chemical treatment of one side of a silicon wafer using a liquid bath.  The patented invention improves upon prior processes for protecting or masking the surfaces that are not to be chemically treated.

According to the Rena Complaint, M.E. Baker Company’s treatment process infringes the ‘526 Patent. 

Rena GMBH is seeking a permanent injunction and monetary damages


Water Purification

Calgon Carbon Corporation et al. v. Remote Light Water, Inc.

Calgon Carbon Corporation and Hyde Marine, Inc. (collectively “Calgon”) filed suit against Remote Light Water (RLW), seeking a declaratory judgment of non-infringement and invalidity of RLW’s U.S. Patents Nos. 6,447,721 (‘721 Patent) and 6,403,030 (‘030 Patent).

Filed May 8, 2012 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Calgon’s Complaint alleges that counsel for RLW sent a letter offering Calgon a license under the ‘721 and ‘030 Patents for Calgon’s Sentinal UV drinking water disinfectant product.

The ‘721 Patent describes a UV disinfection system comprising at least one light source with controllable UV light output that has at least one UV dose zone for providing effective sterilization of microorganisms within the water.  The ‘030 Patent describes a similar process effective for treating waste-containing fluid.

According to the Complaint, Calgon has reasonable apprehension that RLW will sue for infringement because RLW is “in the business of enforcing its patent portfolio through litigation.” 

*Jeff Woodley is a contributor to Green Patent Blog.  Jeff is a summer associate at McKenna Long & Aldridge and is currently in his final year at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.  He received his undergraduate degree in Economics also from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

May 4th, 2012

There have been several green patent complaints filed in the past several weeks in the fields of biofuels, LEDs, lithium ion batteries, and industrial water purification.



Gevo, Inc. v. Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC and E.I. DuPont De Nemours and Co.

On April 10, 2012, Gevo filed suit against Butamax and DuPont in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware alleging Butamax and DuPont are infringing one of its patents related to the production of isobutanol.  This suit is the latest salvo in litigation between Gevo and Butamax.  (see previous posts here, here, here, and most recently here.)

The asserted patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,153,415, entitled “Reduced By-Product Accumulation for Improved Production of Isobutanol” (the ‘415 Patent).  The ‘415 Patent issued on April 10, 2012, the same day Gevo filed this latest suit against Butamax. 

According to the complaint (Gevo-Butamax_Complaint-4-10-12), the ‘415 Patent describes “recombinant isobutanol-producing microorganisms containing a disruption in the expression or activity of an endogenous 3-keto acid reductase activity and methods for producing isobutanol using such organisms.”

Gevo’s complaint alleges Butamax makes infringing microorganisms to produce isobutanol through deletion or inactivation of the YMR226c gene.  Gevo claims Butamax describes its infringing process in PCT Publication No. WO/2011/159853, entitled “Recombinant Host Cells Comprising Phosphoketolases”, and PCT Publication No. WO/2011/159998 entitled “Production of Alcohol Esters and In Situ Product Removal During Alcohol Fermentation”.

Gevo is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions and damages.



Whelen Engineering Company, Inc. v. CPS Emergency LED Lighting & Equipment

Filed March 29, 2012 in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, Whelen’s complaint (Whelen Complaint) alleges CPS infringed U.S. Patent Nos. 6,641,284, entitled “LED Light Assembly”, and D500,384, entitled “Reflector for Light Assembly”.

Whelen also alleges CPS has infringed several of its trademarks.  The marks at issue are Whelen’s LINEAR-LED, FREEDOM and VERTEX marks.  Whelen claims CPS has either used identical marks or confusingly similar marks.

Whelen is seeking treble and punitive damages and injunctive relief.  They are also seeking CPS’s alleged infringing products be destroyed.

Lektron, Inc. v. iLight Technologies, Inc.

Lektron, Inc. v. Philips Solid-State Lighting Solutions, Inc.

Lektron, Inc. v. The Sloan Company, Inc. dba SloanLED, Inc.

On April 6, 2012, Lektron filed three separate suits in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma alleging that iLight, Philips and SloanLED have each infringed U.S. Patent No. 6,361,186 entitled “Simulated Neon Light Using LED’s” (‘186 Patent).  (Each complaint can be viewed here: (Lektron-iLight Complaint) (Lektron-Philips Complaint) (Lektron-Sloan Complaint)).

The ‘186 Patent describes a product designed to replace traditional neon lights with a more durable product that consumed less energy by replacing fragile glass tubes with energy efficient LED lights.  The Lektron product is sold under the LEON trademark.

Lektron is alleging direct infringement and is seeking injunctive relief and damages from each defendant.

Everlight Electronics Co. Ltd., and Emcore Corporation v. Nichia Corporation, and Nichia America Corporation

On April 19, 2012, Everlight filed suit against Nichia (Everlight-Nichia Complaint) in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, seeking declaratory judgment for patent non-infringement, invalidity, and unenforceability of two of Nichia’s patents, and alleging Nichia is infringing one of its patents.

Everlight is seeking declaratory judgment for patent non-infringement, invalidity, and unenforceability of two patents owned by Nichia:  U.S. Patent Nos. 5,998,925 entitled “Light Emitting Device Having a Nitride Compound Semiconductor and Phosphor Containing Garnet Fluorescent Material” (‘925 Patent), and 7,531,960 entitled “Light Emitting Device with Blue Light LED and Phosphor Components” (‘960 Patent).

Nichia recently filed suit against an Everlight customer in a Tokyo District Court asserting the Japanese counterpart to the ‘970 Patent (Japanese Patent No. 4350094).  Nichia also filed suit against Everlight in Germany asserting the European counterpart to the ‘925 Patent (European Patent No. EP 0 936 682). 

According to the Everlight complaint, Nichia has threatened litigation over several other patents in Japan, and Everlight prevailed in a patent infringement action initiated by Nichia in Taiwan.  This suit, filed by Everlight, is in response to the suits Nichia has filed and the threats Nichia has made to Everlight’s potential clients.

In addition to seeking declaratory judgment for non-infringement and invalidity, Everlight is seeking declaratory judgment that the ‘960 and ‘925 patents are unenforceable due to fraud and inequitable conduct during prosecution by Nichia.

Everlight is also asserting that Nichia infringes U.S. Patent No. 6,653,215 entitled “Contact to N-GaN with Au Termination” (‘215 Patent).  Everlight is seeking damages, attorney fees and costs.


Lithium Ion Batteries

Energizer Holdings, Inc., Eveready Battery Company, Inc., v. Wahl Clipper Corp., and Wahl Clipper Ningbo Ltd.

Filed April 11, 2012 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, Energizer’s complaint (Energizer_Complaint) alleges that Wahl infringes several of its patents.  The patents in dispute are U.S. Patent Nos.:

5,290,414 entitled “Separator/Electrolyte Combination For a Nonaqueous Cell”;

7,923,138 entitled “Housing for a Sealed Electrochemical Battery Cell”;

7,968,230 entitled “High Discharge Capacity Lithium Battery”;

8,007,940 entitled “Separator/Electrolyte Combination For a Nonaqueous Cell”; and

RE41,866 entitled “Nonaqueous Electrochemical Cell with Improved Energy Density”.

Energizer claims Wahl makes, offers for sale, imports and is selling products containing the asserted patents in its Lithium Pen Trimmer.  They are seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions, treble damages and attorney fees.


Water Purification

Aquatech International Corp., and Debasish Mukhopadhyay v. N.A. Water Systems, LLC, and Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies Support

On April 4, 2012, Aquatech filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against Water Systems and Veolia Water seeking a declaratory judgment that U.S. Patent No. 7,815,804, entitled “Method for Treating Wastewater or Produced Water” (‘804 Patent), owned by N.A. Water and Veolia ( a subsidiary of N.A. Water), is invalid and unenforceable and that its products do not infringe the ‘804 Patent. (Aquatech Complaint)

Aquatech is a licensee of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,925,255 entitled “Method and Apparatus for High Efficiency Reverse Osmosis Operation” and 6,537,456 entitled “Method and Apparatus for High Efficiency Reverse Osmosis Operation” (though these patents are not asserted in this complaint). 

Aquatech’s patents related to its HERO water purification process.  The HERO process uses the patents in a high efficiency reverse osmosis water purification process which is used in many industries including power generation, petrochemical, and microelectronics.  The HERO technologies have been licensed to companies such as General Electric and Intel.

Aquatech claims N.A. and Veolia have coerced and intimidated potential customers into using Veolia’s OPUS water purification process (described in the ‘804 Patent) under threat of patent litigation – claiming the HERO process infringes upon the OPUS process.  Aquatech claims Veolia knew, or should have known, that the HERO process does not infringe the OPUS process and that such claims of infringement were false.

Aquatech is seeking a declaration that the HERO process does not infringe the OPUS process, that each claim of the ‘804 patent is invalid, and that the ‘804 Patent is unenforcable due to inequitable conduct.