Fiddler on the Roof: FTC to be More Active in Rooftop Solar?

August 9th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

rooftop solar

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been very active in combating greenwashers, those advertisers and marketers of green products and services that make false or deceptive claims of environmental benefits.

America’s consumer watchdog agency has addressed greenwashing in two ways.   First, the agency has attempted to preempt it through guidance to advertisers in its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, commonly know as the Green Guides, which provide a framework for green marketers to formulate permissible environmental benefit claims for products and services.

Second, the FTC has undertaken a number of enforcement actions against greenwashers, including against an LED manufacturer for misleading environmental benefit claims and a recent lawsuit against Volkswagen on behalf of consumers.

In a recent piece published on Law360, three attorneys from the WilmerHale law firm wrote that the FTC appears poised to take a more active role in the area of rooftop solar installations.

A workshop held by the FTC in June examined consumer protection issues in the rooftop solar industry, which operates amid a “complex matrix of laws, regulations, policies, subsidies and incentives.”

According to the article, the FTC believes it has the expertise to protect consumers of rooftop solar installations:

The FTC has taken the position that it is “uniquely positioned” to ensure that “consumers are well-informed about its pros and cons and the options available to them” regarding rooftop solar generation.

The agency, of course, has the authority to target deceptive advertising, and it noted at the workshop that the Green Guides are applicable to the marketing of rooftop solar installations.

Furthermore, the FTC has issued “Solar Power for Your Home” guidance for consumers and recently opened an enforcement action relating to allegedly illegal robocalls for solar marketing.

While a number of state officials believe primary regulatory responsibility for the rooftop solar industry should be on the state level, the article said, they recognize that the FTC could play a role in identifying best practices and consumer communication templates.

So we can expect to see more from the FTC to keep greenwashing in check as the rooftop solar industry expands.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Upate

July 29th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

A number of new green patent infringement complaints were filed in May and June in the areas of green cleaning solvents, LEDs, lighting control technology, smart thermostats, smart meters, and water meters.

 

Green Cleaning Solvents

GreenEarth Cleaning, LLC v. Kings Park Green Cleaners, LLC

This action for patent infringement, trademark infringement, and breach of contract was filed June 21, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Although the complaint lists nine patents, there is only one count of patent infringement asserting U.S. Patent No. 5,942,007 (‘007 Patent).

The ‘007 Patent is entitled “Dry cleaning method and solvent” and directed to dry cleaning methods comprising the steps of immersing clothes in a dry cleaning fluid including a cyclic siloxane composition, agitating the clothes in the composition, and then removing the cyclic siloxane composition by centrifugal action and air circulation.

According to the Abstract of the ‘007 Patent, the “cyclic-siloxane-based solvent allows the system to result in an environmentally friendly process which is, also, more effective in cleaning fabrics and the like than any known prior system.”

GreenEarth alleges that Kings Park, which had a license from GreenEarth, continues to use liquid silicone as a dry cleaning solvent though it is no longer a licensee.

 

LEDs

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Hubbell Inc. et al.

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. American De Rosa Lamparts, LLC

Lighting Science filed both of these lawsuits in federal court in Orlando, Florida on June 21, 2016.

Both complaints assert U.S. Patent No. 8,201,968 (‘968 Patent), U.S. Patent No. 8,967,844 (‘844 Patent), and U.S. Patent No. 8,672,518 (‘518 Patent).

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.

Hubbell’s “Surface Mount” family of products are the subject of the Hubbell complaint, and the American De Rosa complaint lists the F9908-30, F9901-30-1, F9904-30-1, and F9906-30-1 products.

 

Nichia Corporation v. Mary Elle Fashions, Inc.

Nichia Corporation v. Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

Nichia Corporation v. Feit Electric Company, Inc.

These three actions, filed June 13, 2016, accuse each defendant of infringing U.S. Patent No. 8,530,250 (‘250 Patent).

Entitled “Light emitting device, resin package, resin-molded body, and methods for manufacturing light emitting device, resin package and resin-molded body,” the ‘250 Patent is directed to a method of manufacturing an LED such that the optical reflectivity at a wavelength of 350-800 nm after thermal curing is 70% or more.

The method includes the steps of sandwiching a leadframe with a notched section, transfer-molding a thermosetting resin containing a light-reflecting substance, forming a resin-molded body on the leadframe, and cutting the resin-molded body and the leadframe along the notched section.

The Mary Elle Fashions complaint lists as accused products the Meridian CFL Plus and the LED Night Light, the Lowe’s complaint lists the Utilitech Pro 24-in Strip Light and LED Bulb, and the Feit Electric complaint lists the BPOM60/830/LED Bulb and the LG2560/CL/LEDG2 Bulb.

 

DeNovo Lighting, LLC v. Norman Lamps, Inc.

DeNovo sued Norman Lamps for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,729,809, entitled “Voltage regulating devices in LED lamps with multiple power sources” (‘809 Patent).

The ‘809 Patent is directed to an LED lamp having three voltage reducing devices, a voltage regulating circuit for providing linear current, the circuit not dependent on a voltage or electromagnetic induction power;,and at least two LEDs connected in series across the voltage regulating circuit.

The complaint, filed June 7, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that Norman’s Hybrid T8 lamps infringe the ‘809 Patent.

 

Philips Lighting North America Corporation et al. v. ikan Int’l, LLC

Philips has asserted more of its LED patents, this time against iKan in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

In a complaint filed May 31, 2016, Philips accused iKan of infringing the following patents:

U.S. Patent No. 6,692,136, entitled “LED/phosphor-LED hybrid lighting systems”

U.S. Patent No. 6,788,011, entitled “Multicolored LED lighting method and apparatus”

U.S. Patent No. 7,014,336, entitled “Systems and methods for generating and modulating illumination conditions”

U.S. Patent No. 7,180,252, entitled “Geometric panel lighting apparatus and methods”

U.S. Patent No. 7,255,457, entitled “Methods and apparatus for generating and modulating illumination conditions”

The accused products include various bi-color flood lights including the iLED 144, iLED 312-v2, IB-508-v2, StudioPRO 600, and Multi-K XL products.

 

Golight, Inc. v. Oracle Lighting, L.L.C.

Filed May 19, 2016 in the U.S.District Court for the District of Colorado, Golight’s lawsuit asserts U.S. Patent No. 9,255,687, entitled “LED system and housing for use with halogen light fixtures” (‘687 Patent).

The complaint alleges that Oracle’s 20W 4D Optic LED Square Spot and and 50 W LED portable search lights infringe the ‘687 Patent.

The ‘687 Patent is directed to an optical projection lens for mounting in front of LEDs.  The lens has a plurality of protrusions of varying thickness wherein the outermost edges of each protrusion has the thickest measurement, the center of each protrusion has the thinnest measurement, and the protrusions merge individual beams of light into a single beam of light.

 

LEDsOn et al. v. Qtran, Inc.

In an action for design patent infringement, LEDsON sued QTran,  on May 3, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

The patents-in-suit are:

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,683, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,684, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,681, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

The accused products are QTran’s IQA-RECD, IQA-45DN, and IQA-Flat LED-based lighting apparatus.

Smart Thermostats

FTC Sensors, LLC v. ecobee Inc.

In this action, filed in federal court in Marshall, Texas on June 1, 2016, FTC Sensors asserts three related sensor and transmission control patents.

According to the complaint, ecobee’s smart thermostat devices, including the Ecobee3 Thermostat, contain systems that infringe the three patents.

Each entitled “Sensor and transmission control circuit in adaptive interface package,” the patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,397,369, 7,696,870, and 8,421,621 (“Sensor Patents”).

The Sensor Patents are directed to a sensor system with a plurality of sensor modules. In a first mode, a linear voltage regulator provides a relatively small amount of power which allows a sensor module to output a signal responsive to detecting an environmental condition.

The interface module can switch the linear voltage regulator to a second mode in which the linear voltage regulator ramps up the amount of power provided to a detecting sensor module. The sensor module can then provide a level indicative of a concentration or intensity of the environmental condition. If the level surpasses a predetermined threshold, the sensor pack can output an alert signal to security server.

Smart Meters

TransData, Inc. v. CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC et al.

TransData has sued another utility, once again in federal court in Tyler, Texas on May 11, 2016.

The now-familiar (see previous posts, e.g., here and here) asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,181,294 (‘294 Patent)and 6,462,713 (‘713 Patent), each entitled “Antenna for Electric Meter and Manufacture Thereof.”  The third patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,903,699, entitled “Wireless Communication Device for Electric Meter and Method of Manufacture Thereof,” is a continuation-in-part of ‘713 and continuation of ‘294.

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

The complaint lists as accused products the Itron OpenWay Centron electric meter, the Landis+Gyr Focus AX electric meter, the General Electric I-210c electric meter, and the General Electric kV2c electric meter.

 

Water Meters

Badger Meter, Inc. v. Sensus USA Inc.

Sensus USA Inc. v. Badger Meter, Inc.

In a game of dueling lawsuits, Sensus filed a complaint on June 16, 2016 against Badger seeking a declaratory judgment of non-infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,539,827 (‘827 Patent), and Badger sued Sensus a week later alleging infringement of the ‘827 Patent.

Sensus sued in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California while Badger filed its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The Badger complaint alleges that Sensus’s Ally water meter infringes the ‘827 Patent, entitled “Water meter with integral flow restriction valve.

The ‘827 Patent is directed to a water meter and a flow control valve housed in a common pressure vessel, in which the flow control valve restricts flow through a metering chamber to less than the normal flow, while still permitting a flow sufficient for basic human needs, rather than completely interrupting supply of the utility.

Lighting Controls

SIPCO, LLC v. Acuity Brands, Inc. et al.

Filed June 23, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, the SIPCO complaint asserts six patents against Acuity.

SIPCO alleges that Acuity’s XPoint Wireless sensors and controllers infringe the patents.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,013,7327,697,4927,468,661, 6,437,692, 6,914,893, and 7,103,511, which relate to remote monitoring and control systems.

June 26th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

 

Green Patent Blog is on vacation.

Court Finds BU Delay OK in LED Patent Infringement Suit

June 17th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

BU

Previous posts, e.g., here and here, reported on Boston University’s LED patent enforcement activity.  A recent decision handed down by a Massachusetts federal court hearing infringement lawsuits against Epistar and Everlight Electronics made an interesting ruling on the defense of laches.

Laches is neglect or delay in bringing suit which causes harm to the adverse party.  A successful laches defense acts as an equitable bar on the plaintiff’s claim or can limit the time period for potential damages, reducing a defendant’s financial exposure.  One key question in a laches inquiry is when the plaintiff knew about a defendant’s infringement; plaintiff’s knowledge of infringement can start the laches period.

Accused of infringing U.S. Patent No. 5,686,738 (‘738 Patent), defendants Epistar and Everlight asserted the defense of laches, arguing that BU unreasonably delayed bringing suit against them, and the delay caused them economic prejudice.

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

The laches issue was complicated by a timeline dating back to 2001 during which multiple parties, including predecessors of the defendants, were involved in selling allegedly infringing products and other parties licensed the ‘738 Patent.

In March 2001, BU and Cree entered into an exclusive license agreement, which required Cree to enforce the ‘738 Patent against infringers, but did not require Cree to bring more than one infringement suit at a time.  BU and Cree ended that arrangement in January 2012, and BU took back control of the ‘738 Patent.

According to the court decision, BU was aware of infringement as early as April 2002, when BU’s head of licensing wrote in an internal draft presentation that United Epitaxy was infringing the ‘738 Patent.  United Epitaxy (UE) merged with Epistar in 2005, and there is no evidence that Epistar continued to make UE products after the merger.

Epistar pointed to this knowledge of possible infringement by Epistar’s predecessor company UE to assert a “tacking” theory of laches, i.e., they urged the court to tack together the full period of time from the 2012 filing date of the lawsuit all the way back to BU’s knowledge of UE’s potential infringement in 2002.

However, Epistar could not show that the predecessor products the same or similar to the accused products in this case, so the court rejected the tacking argument:

Because Epistar failed to provide sufficient evidence that its predecessors’ products were the same or similar to the accused products in this case . . . Epistar’s “tacking argument fails.

The court found Cree was not aware of Epistar’s infringement until October 2010, which was a short enough period before BU brought the lawsuit that laches did not apply.

Everlight, on the other hand, succeeded in its tacking argument.  In May 2004, Cree accused Fairchild Semiconductor of infringing the ‘738 Patent; at that time, Everlight was making LED products for Fairchild based on Fairchild’s specifications.  In 2006, Everlight purchased Fairchild’s LED business assets.

The court therefore found tacking of infringement knowledge back to 2004 for Everlight and a presumption of laches:

[T]his Court finds that Everlight is the “successor-in-interest” to Fairchild’s LED business.  Because Everlight has satisfied the requirements for “tacking” and Cree knew of the Fairchild-Everlight LED business purchase in 2006, this Court finds that Cree’s knowledge of Everlight’s infringing activity “tacks” back to 2004, more than six years before BU filed this suit.  Therefore, the presumption of laches applies with respect to Everlight.

Although the 8-year period from 2004 to the lawsuit filing date in 2012 was reduced somewhat due to other factors, the court went on to find two sub-periods of time unreasonable:

[G]iven BU’s failure to provide any acceptable excused for the periods from May 2004 to September 2006, and from March 2009 to October 2012, BU has failed to rebut the presumption of laches and Everlight has proven that these delays were unreasonable.

But that wasn’t the end of the story; Everlight still had to show material economic prejudice as a result of BU’s unreasonable delay in bringing suit.

And that they failed to do.  Everlight could not provide the actual percentage of its costs directly attributable to designing packages for Epistar’s infringing LED chips or the economic impact of altering its production processes.

Everlight argued it could have stopped purchasing Epistar LED chips if BU had sued earlier.  However, Everlight had very close ties with Epistar, including holding $100 million in Epistar stock, such that any reduction in Epistar’s profits would have economically harmed Everlight.  Epistar also provided Everlight with its non-infringement analysis and denied infringement.

Accordingly, the court was not convinced that, had BU sued sooner, Everlight would have avoided infringement liability by ceasing its purchase of Epistar LED chips and altering its LED package design:

This Court finds it unlikely that, had BU sued earlier, Everlight – with its close ties to Epistar, Epistar’s noninfringement and invalidity analysis, and its indemnity agreement – would have ceased purchasing Epistar chips and altered its LED package design based on such a small percentage of its total worldwide sales.  Because Everlight has failed to prove a nexus between BU’s delay in filing suit and any economic prejudice, this Court finds for the plaintiff on the issue of laches with respect to Everlight.

Thus, the court went on to award BU $9.3 million in damages from Epistar and $4 million from Everlight, plus prejudgement and post judgement interest from both parties.

VW and Feds On Track to Settle; VW to Repair or Buy Back Cheating Vehicles

June 10th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

It’s hard to keep track of all of the developments in the Volkswagen emissions greenwashing scandal, and there’s much to catch up on.

First, the German automaker worked out the framework for potential settlement of a lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which filed a civil complaint against Volkswagen in January seeking injunctive relief and monetary penalties for VW’s actions.

The reconciliation happened rather quickly, with VW proposing to settle the case about three months after the suit was filed.  Apparently, VW was eager to move past the scandal and has admitted tried to cheat on the emissions tests.

The parties have already reached an agreement in principle.  As part of the settlement, VW has offered to repair 482,000 diesel vehicles with the defeat device software or buy back or cancel the leases on the vehicles.  The automaker will also set up environmental and consumer protection funds.

The court set a date of June 21st for VW and the DOJ to finalize the settlement agreement and recently confirmed the parties are on track to meet that deadline.

While this particular action may be resolved shortly VW is still fighting other battles, some pertaining to the scandal, others involving different issues.

For example, three VW dealers sued the automaker in a proposed class action saying the company intentionally defrauded dealers by installing the software.

VW is also facing an investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) for patent infringement.  The ITC voted to initiate the investigation at the request of hybrid vehicle technology company Paice.

The investigation centers on alleged infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,237,634, 7,104,347, and 8,214,097.  The three related patents are entitled “Hybrid vehicles” and cover hybrid electric vehicles utilizing an internal combustion engine with series parallel electric motors, regenerative braking, and control circuitry.

The accused products listed in the complaint are the VW Jetta Hybrid, the Audi Q5 Hybrid, the Audi A3 e-tron Hybrid, the Porsche S E-Hybrid, and the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid.

The Paice complaint requests a permanent limited exclusion order that would stop the allegedly infringing hybrid vehicles and components from entering the United States.

Sustainable Agriculture and the Rise of GMO Patents

May 24th, 2016 by Anna Lippert* No comments »

220px-Golden_Rice

At the Patents for Humanity Awards last year the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) gave awards to seven patents for innovations in different humanitarian fields including sanitation, energy, and medicine.

Among these seven, winning an award for its work in nutrition was U.S. Patent No. 7,838,749 for Golden Rice.  Invented by Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Peter Beyer at the University of Freiburg, the rice has a genetically engineered carotenoid pathway to biosynthesize beta-carotene, allowing for the rice to have a higher level of vitamin A than conventional farmed rice.

The purpose behind the development of Golden Rice is to provide the enhanced rice to developing countries with the goal of lowering the rate of vitamin A deficiencies and the deaths due to those deficiencies. The inventors teamed up with the seed manufacturing company Syngenta (pending an $43 billion offer for purchase by ChemChina) in order to provide the seeds free of cost to developing countries.

Golden Rice, however, has not been entirely accepted with open arms. Many people today disapprove of the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in agriculture for health reasons, and the increase of resistances to disease and pesticides etc. within the crops themselves, which then require more genetic engineering to fight off the higher resistances.

As we move further into the 21st century, biotechnology is becoming more advanced and innovations easier to achieve, raising the question about agricultural GMO patents.

On one hand, like Golden Rice, these inventions could potentially save thousands of lives. On the other hand, GMO’s are still new and scientists are not fully aware of any long term implications they may have.

As GMO patents become more abundant, the USPTO, other national intellectual property offices, and IP policymakers will face serious scientific and moral issues surrounding GMO work within agriculture and the policies connected to them creating the need for more collaboration between the scientific and legal communities.

*Anna Lippert is a 2015 graduate of Purdue University with a Bachelors of Science in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.  Ms. Lippert is a certified OSHA hazardous waste technician and currently a second year law student at Golden Gate University School of Law with a focus on agricultural and environmental toxicology patent law. 

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

May 17th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

March and April saw a big uptick in green patent lawsuits filed, mostly driven by LED actions.  The suits were in the areas of energy storage, LEDs, and smart grid.

 

Energy Storage

Praxair, Inv. v. Air Liquide Large Industries U.S. LP

Connecticut based Praxair sued rival Air Liquide for infringement of a patent relating to underground hydrogen storage.

Filed in federal court in Beaumont, Texas, the complaint alleges that Air Liquide’s operation of its Spindletop hydrogen storage cavern infringes U.S. Patent No. 8,690,476 (‘476 Patent).

The ‘476 Patent is entitled “Method and system for storing hydrogen in a salt cavern with a permeation barrier” and directed to a method and system for storing high purity hydrogen in a salt cavern without seepage or leakage by creating a permeation barrier along the salt cavern walls.

LEDs

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Nicor, Inc.

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Globalux Lighting LLC

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. EEL Company 

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Panor Corporation

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. S E L S, Inc.

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Sunco Lighting, Inc.

Lighting Science Group (LSG) continued its patent enforcement activity, filing six new infringement lawsuits, all in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

The complaint against Nicor was filed March 10, 2016.  The rest were filed on April 21, 2016 against Globalux Lighting (Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Globalux Lighting LLC), EEL Company (Lighting Science Group Corporation v. EEL Company, Ltd.), Panor Corporation (Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Panor Corporation), S E L S (Lighting Science Group Corporation v. S E L S, Inc.), and Sunco Lighting (Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Sunco Lighting, Inc.).

Each complaint asserts at least two of the following patents:  U.S. Patent No. 8,201,968 (‘968 Patent), U.S. Patent No. 8,967,844 (‘844 Patent), and U.S. Patent No. 8,672,518 (‘518 Patent).

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.

 

Fiber Optic Designs, Inc. v. Holidynamics, Inc. et al.

Fiber Optic Designs (FOD) sued Holidynamics and Anewalt’s Lawn & Landscape March 10, 2016 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The complaint alleges that Holidynamics’ M8, C6, T5, and 5MM (WA) LED Light Sets infringe three FOD patents relating to LED light strings.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,220,022 (‘022 Patent) and 7,934,852 (‘852 Patent) both entitled “Jacketed LED assemblies and light strings containing the same,” as well as U.S. Patent No. 7,377,802, entitled “Plug and cord connector set with integrated circuitry” (‘802 Patent).

The ‘022 and ‘852 Patents are directed to jacketed light emitting diode assemblies and a waterproof light string including an electrical wire set connected to positive and negative contacts.  A light transmissive cover receives the lens body, and an integrally molded plastic jacket at the opening of the light transmissive cover provides a seal against moisture and airborne contaminants.

The ‘802 Patent is directed to a combination connector assembly and LED lighting chain that includes integrated circuitry for use with decorative lighting products. The integrated circuitry serves to reduce or limit current, provide full-wave AC to DC rectification, provide overload protection, reduce voltage, protect against voltage spikes, and add blinking or flashing functions.

 

Seoul Viosys Co. v. Salon Supply Store LLC

On March 18, 2016, Seoul Viosys filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Salon Supply Store in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The complaint asserted five LED patents:

U.S. Patent No. 8,168,988, entitled “Light emitting element with a plurality of cells bonded, method of manufacturing the same, and light emitting device using the same”

U.S. Patent No. 7,982,207, entitled “Light emitting diode”

U.S. Patent No. 9,041,032, entitled “Light emitting diode having strain-enhanced well layer”

U.S. Patent No. 9,224,935, entitled “Light emitting diode package”

U.S. Patent No. 8,680,559, entitled “Light emitting diode having electrode extensions for current spreading”

The accused products include Salon’s Edge Medium Round LED Curing Lamp MAN-LED-TP27 and the 18W Salon Edge Curing Lamp Dryer Timer MAN-LED-TP35B.

 

Nichia Corporation v. Vizio, Inc. (E.D. Tex.)

Nichia Corporation v. Vizio, Inc. (C.D. Cal.)

Nichia filed two infringement suits against Vizio in March, one in the Eastern District of Texas, the other in the Central District of California.  In both cases, the technology at issue is LED-backlit televisions.

The Texas complaint, filed March 21, 2016, asserted U.S. Patent No. 8,530,250, entitled “Light emitting device, resin package, resin-molded body, and methods for manufacturing light emitting device, resin package and resin-molded body.”

The accused product is Vizio’s D-Series 28″ Class Full-Array LED TV D28h-C1.

The California complaint was filed on March 23rd and asserted four patents:

U.S. Patent No. 7,901,959, entitled “Liquid crystal display and back light having a light emitting diode”

U.S. Patent No. 7,915,631, entitled “Light emitting device and display”

U.S. Patent No. 8,309,375, entitled “Light emitting device and display”

U.S. Patent No. 7,855,092, entitled “Device for emitting white-color light”

The accused products are Vizio’s D-Series 28″ Class Full-Array LED TV D28h-C1 and E-Series 60″ Class Full Array LED Smart Television E60-C3.

 

LEDsON et al. v. Vision Light Worx, Inc.

In an action for design patent infringement, LEDsON sued Vision Light Worx on March 23, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The patents-in-suit are:

U.S. Design Patent No. D651,739, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,683, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,684, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,680, entitled “Extrusion for light emitting diode based lighting apparatus”

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,681, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

U.S. Design Patent No. D649,682, entitled “Extrusion for LED-based lighting apparatus”

 

Ultravision Technologies, LLC v. Lamar Advertising Company et al.

In this lawsuit, Ultravision asserted four LED patents against Lamar Advertising and related companies as well as Irvin International.

Filed in federal court in Marshall, Texas on April 7, 2016, the complaint alleges that Lamar’s billboards and other outdoor advertising structures infringe the following patents:

U.S. Patent No. 8,870,410, entitled “Optical panel for LED light source”

U.S. Patent No. 8,870,413, entitled “Optical panel for LED light source”

U.S. Patent No. 9,212,803, entitled “LED light assembly with three-part lens”

U.S. Patent No. 9,234,642, entitled “Billboard with light assembly for substantially uniform illumination”

In addition to patent infringement, Ultravision asserts claims for breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets.

 

Tseng v. Skechers U.S.A., Inc.

An individual, Shen Ko Tseng, sued Skechers for alleged infringement of a patent relating to circuits for electronically controlling multiple LEDs and causing the LEDs to flash in predetermined lighting patterns.

The patent-in-suit is U.S. Patent No. 7,500,761, entitled “Circuit device for controlling a plurality of light-emitting devices in a sequence” (‘761 Patent).

The complaint alleges that certain Skechers LED illuminated shoes, including the Magic Lites line of footwear, infringe the ‘761 Patent.

 

RAB Lighting Inc. v. ABB Lighting, Inc. et al.

In another (mostly) design patent infringement suit, RAB has accused ABB, GenerPower, and GP Energy of infringing eight LED lighting design patents and one utility patent.

The asserted patents are:

U.S. Patent No. D547,484, entitled “Light fixture”

U.S. Patent No. D569,029, entitled “Light fixture”

U.S. Patent No. D691,320, entitled “Slim wallpack light fixture”

U.S. Patent No. D690,453, entitled “High bay LED light fixture”

U.S. Patent No. D579,141, entitled “Area light”

U.S. Patent No. D612,975, entitled “Square step light”

U.S. Patent No. D643,147, entitled “LED flood light”

U.S. Patent No. D747,534, entitled “Canopy LED light fixture with fins”

U.S. Patent No. 9,273,863, entitled “Light fixture with airflow passage separating driver and emitter”

The accused products include, inter alia, the LED Parking Garage Light, LED Canopy Light, LED Security Light, LED Slim Wall Light, and LED Wall Pack.

 

Lynk Labs, Inc. v. Schneider Electric USA

Filed April 25, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Lynk Labs’ complaint alleges that Schneider Electric is infringing three patents relating to LED circuits and drivers.

Specifically, Lynk Labs asserts infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 8,148,905 (‘905 Patent) and 8,531,118 (‘118 Patent), both entitled “AC light emitting diode and AC LED drive methods and apparatus,” and 8,841,855, entitled “LED circuits and assemblies” (‘855 Patent).

The accused products are the Low Voltage Trac Systems manufactured and sold by Schneider and a company called Juno Lighting, which Lynk Labs sued separately for infringement last year.

 

Smart Grid

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. Ericsson, Inc. et al.

Endeavor MeshTech (a wholly-owned subsidiary of patent monetization firm Endeavor IP) sued Ericsson in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on March 24, 2016.

The complaint accuses Ericsson 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 are Ericsson’s SGN 3200 family of communication products including the SGN 3200 Smart Grid Node, the SGN 3260 Smart Grid Indoor Mini Node, the SGN 3280, Smart Grid Micro Node, the Smart Grid Node Manager, and the Smart Grid Node Manager Single Server.

 

Smart Meter Technologies, Inc. v. Duke Energy Corporation

Filed March 31, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, in this lawsuit (Smart Meter Technologies, Inc. v. Duke Energy Corporation) Smart Meter Technologies accuses Duke Energy of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,058,524 (‘524 Patent) by distributing and installing advanced power meters.

The ‘524 Patent is entitled “Electrical power metering system” and directed to a wireless electrical power metering system including a processor having a multichannel power line transceiver, a wireless transceiver, and a power meter which measures power consumption information on a power line inductively coupled with the power meter.

The processor converts the power consumption information into IP-based data, and transmits same over the wireless transceiver to a remote monitoring station or across the internet for storage, analysis, and billing. The processor generates appliance control signals and generates same across the multichannel power line transceiver to remotely control appliances in response to power consumption trends.

 

Varentec, Inc. v. GridCo, Inc.

Varentec filed a patent infringement suit against GridCo on April 1, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

The complaint alleges that GridCo’s SVC power management products infringe U.S. Patent Nos. 9,293,922 (‘922 Patent) and 9,014,867 (‘867 Patent).

The ‘922 and ‘867 Patents are entitled “Systems and methods for edge of network voltage control of a power grid” and directed to systems comprising a distribution power network, a plurality of loads, and a plurality of shunt-connected, switch-controlled VAR sources.  The shunt-connected, switch-controlled VAR sources may be located at the edge or near the edge of the distribution power network where they may each detect a proximate voltage.

The processor may be configured to enable the VAR source to determine whether to enable a VAR compensation component based on the proximate voltage and to adjust network volt-ampere reactive by controlling a switch to enable the VAR compensation component.

 

Various Bodies in Europe and the US Stay Active on Greenwashing

May 10th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

Two recent greenwashing decisions in the United States and Europe highlight the various (sometimes overlapping) organizations involved in combating false or misleading green advertising claims.

BBB

In the U.S., the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently examined environmental benefit and performance claims made in connection with “Eco Alkalines” batteries.

The manufacturer, LEI Electronics (LEI), agreed to most of the NAD’s recommendations including discontinuing certain advertising and modifying most of its environmental claims.

However, LEI pushed back against the NAD on LEI’s carbon neutrality claim, so the NAD referred that claim to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for review (see the BBB announcement here and the Lexology article here).

The statements that remain in dispute are:

[E]very purchase is carbon neutral….by purchasing Eco Alkalines batteries, you’re doing your part to reduce the CO2 and climate change impact brought about by the production, distribution, and disposal of alkaline batteries.

[The product is a] 100% carbon neutral alkaline battery.

erdgas

In Europe, the Lauterkeitskommission, the self-governing body of the Swiss commercial communications industry, found that certain claims made by the Swiss Gas Association (SGA, known as erdgas) regarding natural gas were insufficiently supported by evidence (see article here).

The disputed claims included the following statements:

Natural gas pollutes the environment less than oil, wood chips, pellets and coal power.

The most effective climate protection is to replace oil with natural gas.

Nature thanks you for purchasing a new natural gas heating.

The Lauterkeitskommission noted that the advertiser bears the burden of proving the truth of factual statements made in advertising.  It held that environmental superiority over competitors can be claimed only when the advertiser can demonstrate a significant advantage.

As to the SGA’s first claim, the Lauterkeitskommission held that the SGA’s evidence was insufficient to prove the superiority of gas over wood chips or pellets. The second claim was not sufficiently proven because, while natural gas may be superior to oil, there are other more environmentally beneficial heating systems.

The last claim was held to be permissible because it is “evident” that a new heating system would be superior to an old heating system.

While we’re used to the FTC and other national consumer watchdog agencies being involved in combating greenwashers, these investigations and decisions remind us that anti-greenwashing activity comes from many different types of organizations.

Paice Goes Straight to the Border with Patent Complaint Against VW

May 3rd, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

l_paice

Over the years this blog has covered important patent litigation and settlements involving hybrid vehicle technology company Paice and some major automakers, including Hyundai/Kia, Toyota, and Ford (see, e.g., the Ford post here).

Paice has notched up some big wins, including a $28.9 million jury award against Hyundai and Kia and a $4.3 million jury award against Toyota, and has and entered into at least three license agreements:  recently with Hyundai and Kia, with Ford, and back in 2010 with Toyota.

Although these cases have been litigated in various forums through the years, Paice was forced to make a tactical shift in venue selection after the U.S. Supreme Court’s eBay v. MercExchange decision in 2006.

In eBay the Supreme Court reversed the U.S. courts’ long-standing practice of automatically issuing an injunction upon a finding of patent infringement and instead held that the traditional four-factor equitable test for injunctive relief must be analyzed in each case brought under the patent statute.

The eBay decision came down just as the Paice-Toyota trial court was deliberating Paice’s motion for an injunction against Toyota.  With the trial court suddenly bound to analyze the four injunction factors, it refused to grant an injunction, instead awarding Paice an ongoing royalty of $25 per infringing vehicle (a figure that was later raised to $98 per vehicle).

So Paice turned to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to seek an exclusion order that would have banned importation of infringing vehicles.

The ITC is a federal agency that investigates trade and importation issues, including conducting quasi-judicial proceedings involving alleged infringement of intellectual property rights by importation of accused products pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1337 (Section 337).

It is a popular forum for patentees (though only injunctive relief is available, not monetary damages) because the proceedings progress much faster than those in the federal courts.

Also, critically for Paice and other non-practicing entities, the ITC is not bound by the eBay decision, which governs injunctive relief analysis under the patent statute, not Section 337 trade law (for a detailed review of the effect of eBay and the ITC on clean tech patent litigation see my article here).

Facing the very real prospect of an import ban, Toyota came to the negotiating table and, settled the suit, and entered into a licensing deal with Paice.

Which brings us to the latest news and the subject of this post.  Paice recently went back to the border and filed a complaint against Volkswagen (together with Porsche and Audi), asking the ITC to investigate alleged infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,237,634, 7,104,347, and 8,214,097.

The three related patents are entitled “Hybrid vehicles” and cover hybrid electric vehicles utilizing an internal combustion engine with series parallel electric motors, regenerative braking, and control circuitry.

The Paice technology, developed back in the 1990s, is called the Hyperdrive System and provides seamless switching between power from an electric motor and an internal combustion engine.

The accused products listed in the complaint are the VW Jetta Hybrid, the Audi Q5 Hybrid, the Audi A3 e-tron Hybrid, the Porsche S E-Hybrid, and the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid.

The Paice complaint requests a permanent limited exclusion order that would stop the allegedly infringing hybrid vehicles and components from entering the United States.

It remains to be seen whether Volkswagen, like the other automakers, will determine that it is in its best interest to take a license to Paice’s hybrid vehicle patents.

EPA and Commodities Commission Cooperate to Fight Biofuels Greenwashing

April 26th, 2016 by Eric Lane No comments »

EPA and CFTC

Previous posts (e.g., here, here, here, and here) have covered a rash of fraudulent biofuels credits schemes in which companies falsely claim to produce biofuels and sell fake credits on the Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) market.

A RIN is a numeric code generated by a renewable fuel producer or importer that represents a gallon of renewable fuel, and certain “obligated parties” in the fuel industry and related businesses can acquire RINs as a way to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard Program.

There have been a number of such schemes exposed over the last few years, and some of the individuals perpetrating them prosecuted and punished.

According to a spokesman for a biodiesel trade group quoted in this StarTribune article, the RIN scams have hurt the biofuels industry by making obligated parties more wary of purchasing the credits from biodiesel producers.

The EPA has been taking steps to mitigate this problem, including in 2014 promulgating additional regulations to ensure oversight of RIN generation and improve the RIN market (see the story here on Biofuels Digest).

Now the EPA is teaming with the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in an attempt to improve regulation and enforcement of RINs and renewable fuels markets.  The two agencies recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to share information and provide inter-agency advice.

In particular, the EPA will share its information on RINs and renewable fuels markets while the CFTC will advise the EPA on oversight and enforcement to reduce fraud:

The Parties intend to coordinate, cooperate and share information . . . in the possession of the EPA with regard to the RIN and renewable fuels markets in connection with the respective regulatory and enforcement responsibilities of the Parties. . . .The CFTC . . . will use the information to advise EPA on techniques that could be employed to minimize fraud, market abuses or other violations, and to conduct appropriate oversight in RIN and renewable fuel markets to aid EPA in successfully fulfilling the EPA’s statutory functions under [the] Clean Air Act . . .”

Let’s hope this inter-agency cooperation will succeed in reducing biofuels credits greenwashing.