Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

March 15th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

A number of new patent infringement lawsuits were filed in January and February in the areas of electric vehicle charging, LEDS, smart grid, and solar battery phone cases.

 

Electric Vehicle Charging

Technology for Energy Corporation v. Hardy et al.

In a lawsuit against a former employee, Technology for Energy alleges various breach of contract claims, breach of an employment agreement, and requests a declaratory judgment of patent invalidity and unenforceability.  The complaint was filed February 22, 2016 in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The patent at issue is U.S. Patent No. 9,020,771, entitled “Devices and methods for testing the energy measurement accuracy, billing accuracy, functional performance and safety of electric vehicle charging stations” (‘771 Patent).

The ‘771 Patent is directed to an instrument for testing electric vehicle charging stations (EVCS).  Energy delivery from the EVCS to the load is monitored by the instrument to determine energy measurement and billing accuracy of the EVCS.

 

LEDs

Harvatek Corporation v. Cree, Inc.

This is the third lawsuit between these two LED makers involving white LED lighting technology (see previous posts here and here).

Filed January 26, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Harvatek’s complaint accuses Cree of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,841,934 (‘934 Patent).

The ‘934 Patent is entitled “White light source from light emitting diode” and is directed to an LED white light source that emits short wavelength color light.  The LED has a split metal substrate and a fluorescent glue that covers the LED chip and converts the short wavelength color light into white light.

Harvatek alleges that Cree’s CLM1 Series LED products infringement the ‘934 Patent.

 

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Sea Gull Lighting Products LLC et al.

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Hyperikon, Inc.

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. U.S.A. Light & Electric, Inc.

Lighting Science Group (LSG) filed three patent infringement lawsuits in late February, all in federal court in Orlando.

The complaint against Sea Gull was filed February 25, 2016 and asserts U.S. Patent No. 8,201,968 (‘968 Patent) and U.S. Patent No. 8,967,844 (‘844 Patent).  The accused products are Sea Gull’s Traverse Collection and Traverse II Collection products.

The complaint against Hyperikon was filed February 26, 2016 and alleges that Hyperikon’s LED Downlight products infringe the ‘844 Patent and U.S. Patent No. 8,672,518 (‘518 Patent).

Also filed February 26, 2016, the complaint against U.S.A. Light & Electric asserts the ‘968, ‘844, and ‘518 Patents and alleges that the defendant’s Recessed LED Downlight products infringe the patents-in-suit.

Entitled “Low profile light,” the ’968 Patent is directed to a luminaire including a heat spreader and a heat sink disposed outboard of the heat spreader, an outer optic securely retained relative to the heat spreader and/or the heat sink, and an LED light source.

The ‘518 Patent and the’ 844 Patent are entitled “Low profile light and accessory kit for the same” and relate to LSG’s disc light LED devices.

 

Lexington Luminance LLC v. Samsung Electronics Co. et al.

In a complaint filed February 25, 2016 in federal court in Marshall, Texas, Lexington Luminance accused Samsung of infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,936,851 (‘851 Patent).

The ‘851 Patent is entitled “Semiconductor light-emitting device and method for manufacturing the same” and is directed to LEDs having textured districts on the substrate such that inclined layers guide extended defects to designated gettering centers in the trench region where the defects combine with each other.  This structure reduces the defect density of the LEDs.

The complaint lists a host of Samsung products including a number of Galaxy smartphones.

 

Smart Grid

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. Rajant Corporation

Endeavor MeshTech (a wholly-owned subsidiary of patent monetization firm Endeavor IP) sued Rajant in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on January 4, 2016.

The complaint accuses Rajant of infringing three patents in a family – U.S. Patent Nos. 7,379,981 (‘981 Patent),  8,700,749 (‘749 Patent), and 8,855,019 (‘019 Patent), 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.

The accused products and services include Rajant’s BreadCrumb Wireless Nodes, InstaMesh Networking Technology, CacheCrumb, and Mesh Antennas.

 

Dipl.-In. H. Horstmann GmbH v. Smart Grid Solutions, Inc.

Horstman, a German company, filed this lawsuit against Smart Grid Solutions (SGS) in federal court in Atlanta, Georgia.

Filed on January 12, 2016, the complaint accuses SGS of trade dress infringement and various deceptive trade practices, as well as infringement of U.S. Patent No. D578,478 (‘478 Patent), a design patent entitled “Fiber optic cable.”

The ‘478 Patent protects Horstmann’s fiber optic cable design with each end including a semi-transparent curved end attached to the cable and a ribbed segment terminating at a flange.

Horstman alleges that SGS’s E-Scout FI-3C Underground Fault Indicator product infringes the ‘478 Patent.

 

JSDQ Mesh Technologies LLC v. Teco Energy, Inc. et al.

On February 2, 2016, JSDQ filed suit against Teco Energy and Tampa Electric Company, alleging infringement of four patents relating to wireless routing systems used in smart grid networks.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,286,828 and 7,916,648, both entitled “Method of Call Routing and Connection,” RE43,675 entitled “Wireless Radio Routing System,” and RE44,607 entitled, “Wireless Mesh Routing Method.”

JSDQ alleges that Teco and Tampa Electric infringe the patents-in-suit because of their deployment of wireless mesh networking systems that incorporate Trilliant’s SecureMesh broadband mesh network.

JSDQ filed a similar infringement suit against Silver Spring and Pepco in September last year.

 

Solar Battery Phone Cases

iPowerUp Inc. v. Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc.

iPowerUp sued Ascent Solar Technologies (AST) for alleged infringement of two patents relating to solar battery charging cases for mobile phones.

The complaint was filed February 12, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent No. 8,080,975, entitled “Portable and universal hybrid-charging apparatus for portable electronic devices” (‘975 Patent) and U.S. Patent No. 8,604,753, entitled “Method of distributing to a user a remedy for inadequate battery life in a handheld device” (‘753 Patent).

The ‘975 Patent is directed to a modular hybrid-charger assembly comprising a rechargeable internal battery connected to a port operable to function as a tetherless connection to a portable electronic device and a device holder having a framework operable to receive, hold, and release the portable electronic device.  The ‘753 Patent claims methods relating to use of the hybrid-charger assembly of the ‘975 Patent.

The accused products are AST’s Enerplex Surfr and Enerplex Surfr Amp cases for the iPhone 6/6s and the Enerplex Surfr for iPhone 5/5s.

Should Patent Policies Be Used to Stifle Fossil Fuel Innovation?

March 9th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

Greentech Media covered a new report that looked at the kinds of market forces we would need to effectively move from fossil fuels to renewables.

Entitled “Will We Ever Stop Using Fossil Fuels?”, the report concludes that technology-driven cost reductions will lead us to continue to use fossil fuels for many years.

One important point raised by the study is that the analytical framework used to compare the cost of renewables versus the cost of fossil fuels is flawed.

Specifically, you can’t only look at the cost of renewable energy technologies over time or even at the cost of renewable energy compared to the current cost of fossil fuel extraction because, like renewables, the costs of conventional carbon-based technologies are likely to go down over time as well.

The GTM piece quoted a University of Chicago economics professor named Michael Greenstone, a co-author of the study, about innovation in fossil fuel extraction keeping pace with green tech innovation:

There’s been tremendous innovation with low-carbon energy, but what’s often missed is that there’s been tremendous innovation in bringing down the cost in fossil fuel recovery.

While promoting innovation in green technologies, should we simultaneously be stifling innovation in fossil fuel technologies?

Some academics think so.  In a guest post on this blog, Professor Matthew Rimmer of the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia posited that it might be time for “patent law to become fossil fuel free.”

Professor Estelle Derclaye of the University of Nottingham has suggested that “patent offices could either not grant patents for any invention which emits CO2 or make a cost-benefit analysis in terms of the value of the invention for society and the levels of CO2 emitted.”

While I’m generally opposed to implementing different patentability regimes across technology areas and excluding specific technologies from patenting, I believe that some aspects of the patent process, such as procedural rules and fees, could be adjusted in an attempt to achieve certain policy goals.

I’ve previously suggested (see here and here) a harmonized fast track program for green technology patent applications.  This “Global Green Patent Highway” would not alter substantive patentability standards, but would provide a smooth and internationally coordinated expedited examination procedure for patent applications directed to inventions that confer a “material environmental benefit” so green patents are granted faster.

Perhaps we should take the opposite tack and consider procedural changes or fee structures that would make it more burdensome to patent technologies directly relating to activities that increase carbon emissions.

In light of this report, maybe now is the time to slow fossil fuel patenting.

Trademark Board Eliminates CARBON ELIMINATOR Application

March 1st, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

In yet another example of eco-mark applicants struggling with descriptiveness, a trademark application for CARBON ELIMINATOR for a “non-chemical enzyme fuel additive” recently went down as merely descriptive of the goods.

After the Examining Attorney refused registration of the mark, Star-Brite Distributing, Inc. (Star-Brite) appealed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (Board).

Under U.S. trademark law, 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 because that would restrict competitors from conveying information about their goods or services.  A merely descriptive mark is one that immediately conveys to consumers the nature of the goods or services.

A major problem for Star-Brite was that the product packaging states that CARBON ELIMINATOR “removes tough carbon deposits” (see below).

Carbon Eliminator

In addition, a product description submitted as a specimen in the application said the product “uses enzyme technology to remove carbon, gum and varnish deposits.”

Based on the packaging and description, the Board found the mark descriptive of what the product actually does:

[A]s Applicant’s specimen and product packaging make clear, Applicant’s enzyme fuel additive eliminates carbon engine deposits.

Star-Brite argued that the term “carbon” does not describe an enzyme fuel additive and the associated chemical reaction and that CARBON ELIMINATOR is a double entendre because the product reduces carbon dioxide emissions of hydrocarbon fuel-burning engines.

The Board disagreed, explaining that CARBON ELIMINATOR is descriptive of the “purpose and and result of that biochemical reaction” and noting that all meanings of the alleged “double entendre” are nonetheless merely descriptive.

The Board concluded that the mark as a whole does not convey “any distinctive source-identifying impression contrary to the descriptiveness of the individual parts.”

Finally, the Board stated that consumers would view the mark as simply signaling what the product does and, re-stating a principal policy of descriptiveness law, noted that competitors ought to be able to use the terms to describe similar products:

On this record, it is clear that consumers familiar with Applicant’s goods would immediately understand, upon seeing Applicant’s proposed mark, that the fuel additive removes carbon deposits.  Furthermore, Applicant’s competitors who also offer products which remove deposits should, like Applicant, have the opportunity to use the term “carbon eliminator” or variations thereof to explain the purpose of their products.

What’s New on the EPA’s Reading List? Pesticide Patents

February 23rd, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

In what seems to be a novel way of exploiting the public disclosure function of patent applications, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently began reviewing applications for pesticides in connection with the agency’s disclosure requirements and enforcement actions.

As discussed in this article by Lawrence Culleen, an environmental lawyer at the Arnold & Porter law firm, makers of pesticides are required to inform the EPA of potential adverse effects of certain chemicals and products.

In a recent lawsuit objecting to its decision to register a pesticide, EPA officials found additional details in patent filings showing that the chemical components of the product could have a synergistic effect such that the product might more effectively control unwanted weeds.

This information about the combination of active ingredients, the article says, may be relevant to the agency’s product registration terms, approval of instructions for use, application rates, and warnings, and suggests that the product might have adverse effects on “non-target organisms.”

The type of information the EPA officials discovered is fairly common in patent applications and related documents submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  In attempting to demonstrate the patentability of an invention, applicants sometimes point to data that they argue show “unexpected results” or levels of effectiveness significantly better than state of the art products.

Pharmaceutical and chemical patent applications, in particular, often provide multiple examples of compositions or solutions and testing data showing their effectiveness.

The interesting question is whether the EPA (or other agencies, for that matter) will use this tactic in fields other than pesticides.  Is there a need for review of patent applications in other technology areas?

Theoretically, the Federal Drug Administration might be interested in patent applications relating to pharmaceuticals, biologics, and medical devices.  But the FDA approval process is rigorous and the reporting requirements strict.

Query whether other technologies relating to the environment would lend themselves to this type of scrutiny by the EPA, or whether green technology patent applications would interest other agencies (e.g., the Department of Energy).

In light of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, it would have been prescient of the EPA to search for patent filings relating to VW’s electronic control module, the software that activated its vehicles’ emissions controls during testing.  If they had found such documents a while ago, they might have provided an important early clue about the scandal to come.

Feds Fed Up with VW; Lawsuit Alleges Clean Air Act Violations

February 16th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

A previous post discussed the Volkswagen emissions scandal in the context of other greenwashing cases and noted that it may exemplify a new trend of high-tech greenwashing.

Last year, Volkswagen admitted that it had intentionally programmed a number of its diesel vehicles to activate emissions controls only during testing.  The vehicles’ software allowed the nitrogen oxide (NOx) output to satisfy U.S. emissions standards during testing while producing much higher emissions during actual driving conditions.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a civil complaint against Volkswagen seeking injunctive relief and monetary penalties for the German automaker’s actions.  The complaint also names Audi and Porsche as defendants.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the complaint alleges that the deceptions and emissions violate certain provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) pertaining to NOx emissions and testing procedures.

Those provisions, and related regulations, require car manufacturers to obtain certification to sell cars in the United States.  As part of the certification process, the manufacturers need to disclose and justify any auxiliary emissions control device (AECD) and explain why it is not a “defeat device” that reduces emission controls under normal operating conditions.

The DOJ alleges that in the testing of a number of cars (the “2.0L Subject Vehicles” and the “3.0L Subject Vehicles”) the defendants failed to disclose the software (the “electronic control module” or “ECM”) which activated the emissions controls during testing, and that the ECM is an AECD.

Paragraph 69 of the complaint describes the software for one set of vehicles and what it does during EPA emissions tests:

During FTP emission testing, the 2.0L Subject Vehicles’ ECM run software logic and/or calibrations that produce compliant emission results under an ECM calibration that VW referred to as the “dyno calibration” (referring to the equipment used in emissions testing, called a dynamometer).  At all other times during normal vehicle operation, the 2.0L Subject Vehicles’ ECM software run a separate “road calibration” that reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system.  In other words, the 2.0L Subject Vehicles ECM software tracks the parameters of the FTP and causes emission control systems to underperform (or fail to perform) when the software determines that the vehicle is not undergoing the FTP.

The complaint alleges that Volkswagen knowingly concealed facts  that would have revealed the existence of the methods performed by the software.

The claims include selling vehicles that don’t comply with CAA emissions requirements, tampering with the vehicles during testing, and certain EPA reporting violations.

The DOJ is seeking an injunction that would prohibit the defendants from selling any vehicles in the United States that fail to comply with the EPA’s emissions certification requirements.  In addition, the feds have asked the court to prohibit the defendants from selling vehicles equipped with any non-compliant AECD or defeat device.

The complaint also requests that civil penalties be imposed in the form of fines of up to $37,500 per vehicle for each violation of the CAA.

Based on an EPA official quoted in this article published by Biodiesel Magazine, it sounds like the feds were not getting the remedial steps they wanted out of Volkswagen (“So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward.”).  Seems this lawsuit was filed to put more pressure on the automakers.

Keeping the Aisles Clear: Envision’s Parking Lot Solar Chargers Got Tracking!

February 9th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

Envision logo

Envision Solar (Envision) is a San Diego-based company that makes solar parking structures that can be used to charge electric vehicles, support outdoor digital advertising, and enhance energy security.  What makes Envision’s products unique is that unlike most parking lot solar-powered vehicle charging stations, most of the company’s systems have the ability to track the movement of the sun.

According to Envision’s President and CEO Desmond Wheatley, 90% of Envision’s deployments have tracking capability.  Why tracking?  He echoed my thoughts exactly:  because it’s “cool.”

Also, parking lots are “hyper-restrained” in geography so a solar charger needs to maximize energy density in a very small space.  Incorporating tracking helps in that regard.

Envision’s two major product offerings are the Solar Tree® and the EV ARC™.  The company owns at least seven U.S. patents and pending applications covering various aspects of the technology in these products.

U.S. Patent No. 7,705,277 (‘277 Patent), issued in 2010, covers Envision’s original design.  Entitled “Sun tracking solar panels,” the ‘277 Patent is directed to a system for maximizing solar energy utilization by moving a solar panel to track movement of the sun from sunrise to sunset.  Movements of the solar panel are accomplished daily in accordance with a programmed schedule of consecutive cycles.

A subsequent patent issued in early 2014 is directed to a refined design better suited for solar tracking in a parking lot.  The system covered by U.S. Patent No. 8,648,551 (‘551 Patent) is significant, Wheatley said, because instead of the tracker causing the solar panel to swing in to the drive aisle, it instead bows.

According to the ‘551 Patent, the rotation of a cylindrical knuckle in the tracking system “allow[s] the solar panel to continuously reorient while maintaining a substantially stationary footprint.”

Wheatley told me the company’s most important intellectual property is that around the features of the EV ARC™.

Wheatley mentioned several advantageous features of the EV Arc.  First and foremost is its autonomy, i.e., it is not connected to the utility grid.  Some of the structural features are also important, including the ability for the thin base plate to support heavy vehicles and the high-traction material of the base plate, which allows it to remain stationary.

U.S. Patent No. 9,209,648, issued in November 2015, is entitled “Self-contained renewable battery charger” and is directed to a charging system (10) comprising a portable unit (12) that includes a moveable docking pad (16) having a base (18) and compartment (20) for holding a storage battery (18).

 

648 FIG 1

The portable unit (12) includes a column (24) having a first end (26) mounted onto the docking pad (16) and a second end (28).  A solar array (30) is affixed to the second end (28) of the column (24).  The unit has a structural canopy with a beam (32) and cross members (34) attached to the column (24) to support the photovoltaic modules of the solar array (30).

The company also has IP around the mobility and installation of its systems, including a specialized trailer and hydraulic ram, ARC™ Mobility, for transportation and deployment purposes.

Wheatley and Envision are very aware of the importance of patent protection in the U.S. and beyond.  The company’s patents, he said, “prevent smaller competitors from copying” their technology.  They also might stop larger customers from buying pirated products.  In general, a strong IP portfolio increases the company’s value in the investor community.

With investments of about $200 billion on EV charging, the company sees China as an important market and has filed patent applications there.  Wheatley told me that Chinese patents allow Envision to bring powerful partners aboard in China to protect the company’s business ventures there.

Envision Solar continues to innovate and isn’t stopping at car charging; they’re working on EV ARC™ eBike and eMotorcycle charging as well.  Many more patent applications will certainly follow.

Paice Licenses Hybrid Vehicle Patents to More Big Automakers

February 2nd, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

l_paice

In another big success for Paice, the hybrid vehicle technology company recently reached an agreement to license all of its tech to Hyundai and Kia.

This comes after a Baltimore jury found that the Korean automakers owed Paice $28.9 million in damages for infringing three patents relating to hybrid electric vehicles: U.S. Patent Nos. 7,237,634, 7,104,347, and 7,559,388.  All three patents are entitled “Hybrid vehicles” .

Paice has been an extremely successful non-practicing entity, using patent litigation in the federal courts and the U.S. International Trade Commission to bring major automakers to the negotiating table.

In 2010 the company settled major patent litigation with Toyota over the Prius and other hybrid models when the Japanese automaker licensed all of Paice’s patents.  Also that year, Paice and Ford became embroiled in patent litigation over hybrid vehicles.

According to the company’s press release about the Kia/Hyundai deal:

Paice has now licensed all or part of its hybrid vehicle technology portfolio to Toyota, Hyundai/Kia, and Ford – three of the world’s six largest automakers.  These three companies currently account for 90% of all hybrid vehicle sales in the United States.

Does all this litigation and licensing make Paice one of the oft-maligned “patent trolls?”  I think not.

The company should not be put in that category for a couple of reasons.  First, the founder of the company and inventor of the technology, Alex Severinsky, is a true innovator and pioneer, having invented much of Paice’s technology at least as early if not earlier than the large automakers.

Most of the patent assertion entities we think of as trolls are not innovators, but instead buy patents to assert in litigation and offer to license.

Second, Paice made genuine efforts at ex ante licensing.  That is, the company approached Toyota with offers to license its technology before any hybrid vehicles were ever sold.

This is in contrast to the business model of acquiring and asserting patents, with licensing offers, after the allegedly infringing products have been manufactured and racked up lots of sales (ex post licensing).

Paice’s success is not a surprise when one understands the power of its patents.  A 2010 report by a patent analytics firm called Ambercite analyzed 58,000 hybrid car patents and their interrelationships using network patent analysis methodology and found Paice’s portfolio to be the strongest, better than all major car manufacturers’ hybrid car patents.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

January 26th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

A number of green patent complaints were filed in November and December of 2015 in the areas of LEDs, smart grid, and water treatment.

 

LEDs

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Ace Hardware Corporation

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Bulbrite Industries, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. FEIT Electronic Co.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. G7 Corporation

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Ikea North America Services LLC

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Philips Electronics North America Corp.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Technical Consumer Products, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. TigerDirect, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Torchstar Corp.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Ushio America, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Wayfair LLC

Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Westinghouse Lighting Corp.

Bluestone Innovations fired off thirteen complaints against a host of LED manufacturers and retailers on November 30, 2015.  All were filed in the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California (most, if not all, in San Francisco).

Some representative complaints can be viewed here:  Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Ace Hardware CorporationBluestone Innovations LLC v. Bulbrite Industries, Inc.Bluestone Innovations LLC v. FEIT Electronic Company, Inc.Bluestone Innovations LLC v. G7 Corporation

Bluestone asserted infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,163,557 (‘557 Patent).  The ‘557 Patent is entitled “Fabrication of group III-V nitrides on mesas” and directed to group III-V nitride films fabricated on mesas patterned either on substrates such as sapphire substrates or on group III-V nitride layers grown on substrates. The mesas provide reduced area surfaces for epitaxially growing group III-V nitride films to reduce thermal film stresses in the films to minimize cracking.

The accused products are various brands and models of LED lightbulbs with group III-V nitride epitaxial films.

 

Smart Grid

Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. Firetide, Inc.

Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. Strix Systems, Inc.

Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. S&C Electric Company

Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. 3E Technologies Int’l, Inc.

Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. FluidMesh Networks LLC

Endeavor MeshTech (a wholly-owned subsidiary of patent monetization firm Endeavor IP) made a strong finish to a busy year of patent enforcement, filing five new lawsuits in November and December of 2015.

The suits against Firetide and Strix Systems were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on November 23, 2015 (Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. Firetide, Inc.Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. Strix Systems, Inc.); the S&C Electric and FluidMesh Technologies complaints were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on December 1 and December 28, 2015, respectively (Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. S&C Electric CompanyEndeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. Fluidmesh Networks, LLC); the lawsuit against 3E Technologies was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on December 23, 2015 (Endeavor Meshtech, Inc. v. 3E Technologies International, Inc.).

All of the complaints accuse the defendants of infringing three patents in a family – U.S. Patent Nos. 7,379,981 (‘981 Patent),  8,700,749 (‘749 Patent), and 8,855,019 (‘019 Patent), 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 Energy Management Solutions, LLC v. Eaton Corp.

Clean Energy Management Solutions sued Eaton for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,636,893 (‘893 Patent) and 6,577,962 (‘962 Patent).

The ‘893 Patent is entitled “Web bridged energy management system and method” and directed to systems and methods enabling individual energy management sites to be connected using a web bridge such that data from the individual sites can be accumulated to a single site, data from one site can be distributed to many sites, and a pyramid arrangement can be used.

The ‘962 Patent is entitled “System and method for forecasting energy usage load” and directed to systems and methods dynamic, real-time energy load forecasting for a site.

Filed December 16, 2015 in federal court in Marshall, Texas, the complaint alleges that Easton’s smart grid solutions such as the Yukon IED Manager Suite infringe the patents-in-suit.

 

Atlas IP, LLC v. City of Naperville

Atlas filed suit against the City of Naperville, Illinois, alleging that the municipality’s installation of REX2 residential smart meters supplied by Elster Metering infringes an Atlas smart meter patent.

The asserted patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,371,734, is entitled “Medium access control protocol for wireless network” and directed to a reliable medium access control protocol for wireless LAN-type network communications among a plurality of resources, such as portable computers.

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on November 30, 2015.

 

Water Treatment

America Greener Technologies, Inc. et al. v. Enhanced Life Water Solutions, LLC et al.

In a complaint filed December 8, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, America Greener Technologies (AGT) sued a number of companies and individuals for alleged infringement of a patent relating to a water treatment device and process.

The asserted patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,477,003, entitled “Apparatus for generating a multi-vibrational field” (‘003 Patent).  The ‘003 Patent is directed to an apparatus and method for generating multi-vibrational electromagnetic (MVEM) fields for use in many water treatment applications, including eliminating calcium build-up, reducing salt usage, increasing water clarity, restructuring or inhibiting nitrates, and restructuring or inhibiting calcium salts and other minerals.

AGT alleges that, after selling the patent to AGT, one of the inventors/co-defendants manufactured a patented device and has been leasing, selling or renting the device.

 

Veolia Water Solutions & Technology Support v. WesTech Engineering, Inc.

Veolia sued WesTech in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, asserting U.S. Patent No. 8,961,785 (‘785 Patent).

The ‘785 Patent is entitled “Rotary disc filter and module for constructing same” and directed to a rotary disc filter device including a rotary drum and disc-shaped filter members secured about the drum.

Filed November 13, 2015, Veolia’s complaint alleges that WesTech’s SuperDisc disc filter infringes the ‘785 Patent.

Top Green IP Stories of 2015

January 19th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

2015

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

 

5.  Automaker Eco-marks

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

3.  EV Patent Commons

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

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

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

 

2.  High-tech Greenwashing

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

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

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

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

 

1. Biobutanol Patent Warriors Settle

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

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

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

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

December 20th, 2015 by Eric Lane No comments »

Green Patent Blog is on vacation.

Happy Holidays!