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Several new green patent complaints were filed in April and May in the area of LEDs.

LEDs

Aurora LED Technology, Inc. et al. v. Putco, Inc.

This lawsuit was filed March 27, 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment of non-infringement, invalidity, and unenforceability of Putco’s U.S. Patent No. 9,243,796 (‘796 Patent) and alleges infringement of U.S. Patent No. D808,049 (‘049 Patent).

Aurora alleges that Putco’s Prolux Zero Space and F1 LED kit infringe the ‘049 Patent.

The ‘049 Patent is a design patent entitled “LED car light” and the ‘796 Patent is a utility patent entitled “LED lamp with a flexible heat sink.”

D3 LED, LLC v. Revolution Display, LLC et al.

D3 sued Revolution Display April 3, 2018, asserting U.S. Patent No. 7,948,450 (‘450 Patent).

The ‘450 Patent is entitled “Apparatus and method for allowing display modules to communicate information about themselves to other display modules in the same display panel” and directed to a module-based display panel.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the complaint alleges that defendants’ LED digital display module called the M8 Distribution Platform infringes the ‘450 Patent.

ETi Solid State Lighting, Inc. v. Costless Lighting, Inc.

In this patent infringement action, ETi asserts two patents relating to flush mount LED lighting products against Costless Lighting.

The complaint was filed March 26, 2018 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 9,500,352 and 9,541,270 both entitled “Integral LED light fixture” and directed to an integral LED light fixture for installation in an incandescent light bulb socket including a housing with a forwardly-extending portion and peripheral outer walls defining a recess, and a rearwardly-extending socket base to be screwed into an incandescent light bulb socket.

The accused products are the Costless Pull Chain LED Retrofit Remodel LED light fixtures.

Mag-LED, Inc. et al. v. Apogee Lighting Group, Inc. et al.

Filed March 8, 2018 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, this lawsuit (MAG-LED, Inc. et al v. Apogee Lighting Group, Inc. et al) involves LED flexible tape light products.

Mag-LED alleges that Apogee infringes U.S. Patent Nos. 9,671,075 and 9,746,144, each entitled “Light strip and method for making a light strip.”  The patents are directed to a light strip having a flexible enclosure extruded around a pair of conductors.  The enclosure contains a lighting assembly with one or more flexible substrates populated with a plurality of light circuits

The accused products are the Solara Flex System and other A/C powered LED flexible tape light products.

NEXT Lighting Corp. v. LSI Industries Inc.

NEXT sued LSI for alleged infringement of two patents relating to high brightness LED lighting units.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,491,165 (‘165 Patent) and 8,684,566 (‘566 Patent).

The ‘165 Patent is entitled “Lighting unit having lighting strips with light emitting elements and a remote luminescent material” and the ‘566 Patent is entitled “Lighting unit with indirect light source.”

Both patents are directed to a lighting unit having a support structure, and one or more light emitting elements supported by a circuit board contacting the support structure.  A remote luminescent material may be provided on one or more optical elements.  Light emitting elements configured to excite the luminescent material such as highly efficient light emitting diodes may be directed towards the luminescent material.

The complaint lists as an exemplary accused product LSI’s LED Side Light Recessed Troffer.

Nichia Corporation v. Vizio, Inc.

Nichia’s complaint was filed March 5, 2018 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,530,2509,490,411 and 9,537,071.

The patents are directed to an LED manufacturing method in which a resin part and a lead are formed in a substantially same plane in an outer side surface, including sandwiching a lead frame provided with a notch part, transfer-molding a thermosetting resin containing a light reflecting material in a mold to form a resin-molded body in the lead frame, and cutting the resin-molded body and the lead frame along the notch part.

The light emitting device has a resin package which provides an optical reflectivity equal to or more than 70% at a wavelength between 350 nm and 800 nm after thermal curing, and in which a resin part and a lead are formed in a substantially same plane in an outer side surface.

Nichia alleges that Vizio’s televisions incorporate LED devices that infringe the patents.

Seoul Semiconductor Co. et al. v. Service Lighting and Elec. Supplies, Inc.

On March 2, 2018, Seoul sued Service Lighting in federal court in Dallas, Texas, alleging infringement of ten LED and LED lighting patents.

The asserted patents are:

U.S. Patent No. 9,627,435, entitled “Light emitting device”

U.S. Patent No. 9,093,627, entitled “Light emitting diode and method of fabricating the same”

U.S. Patent No. 9,577,157, entitled “Light emitting diode chip having distributed Bragg reflector and method of fabricating the same”

U.S. Patent No. 7,700,960, entitled “Light emitting diode with ITO layer and method for fabricating the same”

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. 8,860,331, entitled “Light emitting device for AC power operation”

U.S. Patent No. 8,829,552, entitled “Light emitting device”

U.S. Patent No. 8,716,946, entitled “Light emitting device for AC power operation”

U.S. Patent No. 7,951,626, entitled “Light emitting device and method of manufacturing the same”

U.S. Patent No. 8,664,638, entitled “Light-emitting diode having an interlayer with high voltage density and method for manufacturing the same

The complaint lists the accused products as the Archipelago A19F6027-2 bulb.

Seoul Semiconductor Co. et al. v. Philcor R.V. & Electronic Leasing, Inc.

Seoul Semiconductor Co. et al. v. Archipelago Lighting, Inc.

The Philcor complaint was filed March 2, 2018 in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, and the Archipelago complaint was filed on the same date in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.  Both actions assert the following patents:

U.S. Patent No. 7,804,098, 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. 8,188,489, entitled “Light Emitting Diode for AC Operation”

U.S. Patent No. 7,646,031, entitled “Light Emitting Device having Light Emitting Elements”

U.S. Patent No. 8,901,575, entitled “AC Light Emitting Diode and Method For Fabricating the Same”

U.S. Patent No. 8,299,476, entitled “Light Emitting Diode Having Light Emitting Cell with Different Size and Light Emitting Device Thereof”

U.S. Patent No. 7,768,020, entitled “AC Light Emitting Diode”

U.S. Patent No. 8,084,774, entitled “Light Emitting Device Having Light Emitting Elements”

U.S. Patent No. 8,680,533, entitled “Light-Emitting Device Having Light-Emitting Elements with a Shared Electrode”

The accused products are the Archipelago LG16512C20027K3 and LA17C24024K1 bulbs.

Technical LED Intellectual Property, LLC v. Aeon Labs, LLC

Technical LED Intellectual Property, LLC v. Super Bright LEDs, Inc.

In these lawsuits, Technical LED accuses the defendants of infringing U.S. Patent No. RE41,685, entitled “Light source with non-white and phosphor-based white LED devices and LCD assembly” (‘685 Patent).

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

The Aeon Labs complaint was filed March 26, 2018 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and the Super Bright LEDs complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on April 11, 2018.

The accused products are Aeon’s z-wave light bulbs and Super Bright’s MiLight bulbs.

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Several new green patent complaints were filed in January and February, with one lawsuit relating to green fitness equipment, one relating to energy storage, and the rest involving LED technology.

Energy Storage

Eco-Stim Energy Solutions Inc. v. McIntyre et al.

This lawsuit was filed February 27, 2018 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

Eco-Stim asserted U.S. Patent No. 8,679,668, entitled “Industrial apparatus for the large-scale storage of electric energy” and directed to an industrial apparatus for the large-scale storage of energy and a process for storing and transporting electric energy wherein an alkali metal, in particular sodium, and sulfur are provided in containers connected by means of an electrolyte E and represent a cell.

Green Fitness Equipment

Green Fitness Equipment Company, LLC v. Precor Inc. et al.

Green Fitness Equipment Company sued Precor February 7, 2018 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,884,553 (‘553 Patent).

The ‘553 Patent is entitled “Current monitor for indicating condition of attached electrical apparatus” and directed to a current monitor is described that indicates a condition of attached electrical equipment.

The current monitor can determine a predetermined range in which current being withdrawn by the attached electrical apparatus lies. Based on the determined range, corresponding display electronic elements, such as light emitting diodes (LEDs), can be activated.

LEDs

Unity Opto Technology Co., Ltd. v. Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC et al.

This lawsuit was filed January 12, 2018 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

Unity Opto Technology alleges that the Utilitech 2×2 LED Panel Light Model No. SL4K22 infringes four of its patents relating to flat panel LED technology:

U.S. Patent No. 9,423,113, entitled “Flat panel lighting device and driving circuitry”

U.S. Patent No. 9,335,036, entitled “Flat panel lighting device and driving circuitry”

U.S. Patent No. 9,523,487, entitled “Flat panel lighting device and driving circuitry”

U.S. Patent No. 9,447,954, entitled “Light fixture having a central wire-way”

Technical LED Intellectual Property, LLC v. Schultze Imports, LLC

Technical LED Intellectual Property, LLC v. Westwingx LLC

Both of these lawsuits assert U.S. Patent No. RE41,685, entitled “Light source with non-white and phosphor-based white LED devices and LCD assembly” (‘685 Patent).

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

The accused products are Schultze’s Bluetooth Bulb and Gen 3 Triangle WiFi Bulb and Westwingx Flux Smart Lighting products.

Both actions were filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, the complaint against Schultze (Technical LED IP v. Schultze Imports LLC) on February 6, 2018 and the complaint against Westwingx (Technical LED Intellectual Property LLC v. Westwingx LLC) February 23, 2018.

RetroLED Components, LLC v. Principal Light Group, LLC

RetroLED sued Principal Light Group (PLC) seeking a declaratory judgment that PLC’s U.S. Patent No. 9,311,835 (‘835 Patent) is invalid not infringed by RetroLED’s end cap products.

The’ 835 Patent is entitled “Lighting mount for interior-lighted signage and method of retrofitting a lighted sign” and directed to a lamp support assembly, retrofit kit, and method are provided for lighting a sign from an interior thereof.  The assembly can be used as a drop-in replacement for high-voltage gas-discharge tube lamps such as high-output fluorescent lamps, and may be used to retrofit signs originally built for gas-discharge tube lamps with low-voltage, high-efficiency lighting such as LED lighting.

The complaint was filed February 23, 2018 in federal court in Waco, Texas.

Philips Lighting North America Corp. et al. v. Howard Industries, Inc.

In a lawsuit filed January 23, 2018 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Philips asserted five patents related to LED drivers

the patents-in-suit are:

U.S. Patent No. 7,262,559, entitled “LEDs driver”

U.S. Patent No. 6,577,512, entitled “Power supply for LEDs”

U.S. Patent No. 6,586,890, entitled “LED driver circuit with PWM output”

U.S. Patent No. 8,063,577, entitled “Method and a driver circuit for LED operation”

U.S. Patent No. 6,250,774, entitled “Luminaire”

The complaint lists the accused products as Howard’s High-bay Linear LED series lighting fixtures.

Nichia Corporation v. Feit Electric Company, Inc.

Nichia sued Feit Electric alleging infringement of three patents entitled “Light emitting device, resin package, resin-molded body, and methods for manufacturing light-emitting device, resin package and resin-molded body.”

Filed February 20, 2018 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the complaint lists the Feit 800 Lumen 3000K Dimmable LED and the Utilitech Pro 9-Watt G25 Warm White LED Light Bulb as accused products.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,530,250, 9,490,411 and 9,537,071.

The patents are directed to an LED manufacturing method in which a resin part and a lead are formed in a substantially same plane in an outer side surface, including sandwiching a lead frame provided with a notch part, transfer-molding a thermosetting resin containing a light reflecting material in a mold to form a resin-molded body in the lead frame, and cutting the resin-molded body and the lead frame along the notch part.

The light emitting device has a resin package which provides an optical reflectivity equal to or more than 70% at a wavelength between 350 nm and 800 nm after thermal curing, and in which a resin part and a lead are formed in a substantially same plane in an outer side surface.

Lemaire Illumincation Technologies, LLC v. HTC Corporation

This lawsuit was filed January 23, 2018 in federal court in Marshall, Texas.

The complaint asserts three patents:  U.S. Patent Nos. 6,095,661 (‘661 Patent), 6,488,390 (‘390 Patent) and 9,119,266 (‘266 Patent).

The ‘661 Patent is entitled “Method and apparatus for an L.E.D. flashlight” and the ‘390 Patent is entitled “Color-adjusted camera light and method” and these related patents are directed to an LED flashlight including  a control circuit for maintaining a predetermined light output level of the LED units as a charge on a battery varies.

The ‘266 Patent is entitled “Pulsed L.E.D. illumination apparatus and method” and directed to an illumination source for a camera including one or more LEDs and a control circuit for driving the LEDs with electrical pulses at a frequency high enough that light produced has an appearance to a human user of being continuous rather than pulsed.

The accused products are the HTC One M8 smartphone, the HTC One M9 smartphone, the HTC 10 smartphone, the HTC Desire Eye smartphone, and the HTC Ultra smartphone.

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There were several new green patent lawsuits filed in November and December in the areas of eco-friendly pet products, electric vehicle charging, LEDs, smart grid, and solar mounting systems.

Green Pet Products

The Green Pet Shop Enterprises, LLC v. PetEdge, Inc.

This lawsuit involves pet pad technology that cools your pets without water or electricity.  The complaint was filed December 29, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,720,218 and 9,226,474, both entitled “Pressure activated recharging cooling platform” and directed to a cooling platform comprising a temperature regulation layer, a support layer, and a channeled covering layer.

The temperature regulation layer is adapted to hold a composition and has a plurality of angled segments, wherein angled segments within a sealed perimeter of the temperature regulation layer are formed by a top side and a bottom side at a predefined distance, and channels, wherein the channels substantially form sides by contacting the top side with the bottom side at a distance lesser than the predefined distance.

The complaint alleges that the defendant’s Slumber Pet Cool Pup Pad infringes the two patents.

EV Charging

ChargePoint, Inc. v. SemaConnect

ChargePoint sued SemaConnect alleging infringement of four electric vehicle charging patents.

The asserted patents are:

U.S. Patent No. 7,956,570, entitled “Network-controlled charging system for electric vehicles”

U.S. Patent No. 8,138,715, entitled “Network-controlled charging system for electric vehicles through use of a remote server”

U.S. Patent No. 8,432,131, entitled “Network-controlled charging system for electric vehicles”

U.S. Patent No. 8,450,967, entitled “Network-controlled charging system for electric vehicles”

The accused products are SemaConnect’s Charge Prop community electric vehicle charging stations.

The complaint was filed December 15, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

LEDs

ETi Solid State Lighting, Inc. v. Satco Products, Inc.

ETi accused Satco of infringing two patents relating to flush mount LED lighting products for use with screw-in incandescent bulb sockets.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 9,500,352 and 9,541,270, both of which are titled “Integral LED light fixture” and directed to an integral LED light fixture for installation in an incandescent light bulb socket including a housing with a forwardly-extending portion and peripheral outer walls defining a recess, a rearwardly-extending socket base to be screwed into an incandescent light bulb socket, electrical components including a printed circuit board having a set of LEDs, and a lens for covering the printed circuit board and being attached to the housing.

Filed November 15, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the complaint lists as accused products include Satco-Nuvo screw-on utility fixtures.

Lemaire Illumination Technologies, LLC v. Microsoft Corporation et al.

In this complaint, filed November 7, 2017 in federal court in Marshall, Texas, Lemaire has asserted three LED patents against Microsoft.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,095,661 (‘661 Patent), 6,488,390 (‘390 Patent) and 9,119,266 (‘266 Patent).

The ‘661 Patent is entitled “Method and apparatus for an L.E.D. flashlight” and the ‘390 Patent is entitled “Color-adjusted camera light and method” and these related patents are directed to an LED flashlight including  a control circuit for maintaining a predetermined light output level of the LED units as a charge on a battery varies.

The ‘266 Patent is entitled “Pulsed L.E.D. illumination apparatus and method” and directed to an illumination source for a camera including one or more LEDs and a control circuit for driving the LEDs with electrical pulses at a frequency high enough that light produced has an appearance to a human user of being continuous rather than pulsed.

The accused products are Microsoft Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 950 Single SIM smartphones.

Cree, Inc. v. Milwaukee Wholesale LLC et al.

Cree sued Milwaukee Wholesale December 28, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The complaint alleges that the defendants are selling knock-offs of Cree’s CPY 250 Canopy/Soffit luminaire.

The knock-offs allegedly infringe two design patents:  D721,844 and D743,084, each titled “Light fixture.” and infringe trade dress of Cree’s products.

General LED OpCo, LLC v. Pincipal LED, LLC

This lawsuit asserts U.S. Patent No., 9,702,531, entitled “Retrofit system and method for replacing linear fluorescent lamp with LED modules” (‘531 Patent).

Filed December 20, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, the complaint alleges that Defendant’s Tap Out, Slim Stik, and Street Stik linear fluorescent lighting products.

The ‘531 Patent is directed to a system for replacing linear fluorescent lamps with LED modules in a cabinet sign including an LED module support structure.  The LED module support structure may be attached to the raceways of the cabinet sign or to the sockets formerly used for mounting fluorescent lamps between the raceways.

Bluestone Innovations, LLC v. General Electric Company

Bluestone Innovations, LLC v. Cree, Inc.

Bluestone Innovations, LLC v. Amazon.com, Inc.

In each of these lawsuits, Bluestone alleges 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.

All the lawsuits were filed in federal court in San Francisco, the complaint against Amazon (Bluestone Innovations LLC v. AMAZON.COM,INC.) on November 30, 2017 and the complaints against GE (Bluestone Innovations LLC v. General Electric Company) and Cree (Bluestone Innovations LLC v. Cree, Inc.) on December 4, 2017.

The complaints list as accused products various brands and models of LED lightbulbs with epitaxial film.

Smart Grid

Banertek LLC v. ecobee, Inc.

This lawsuit was filed November 17, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Banertek alleges that ecobee infringes U.S. Patent No. 6,839,731, entitled “System and method for providing data communication in a device network” (‘731 Patent).

The ‘731 Patent is directed to a system and method for facilitating data communications in a device network.  The system and method includes premises-server computing devices, a central communication device, and a number of client computing devices. Each client computing device communicates with the central communication device to request access to device data from the premises-server computing devices. Once access rights are established, the client computing devices communicate directly with specific premises-server computing devices.

According to the complaint, ecobee provides systems with premises server computing devices in communication with devices such as room sensors, HVAC fans, etc., a central communication device such as the ecobee server, and a client computing device.

Solar Mounting Systems

Rillito River Solar LLC v. IronRidge Inc.

Rillito River Solar LLC v. Wencon Development Inc.

The IronRidge complaint, filed December 6, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, alleges infringement of two solar mounting system patents.

U.S. Patent Nos. 9,774,292 and 9,793,853 are entitled “Roofing grommet forming a seal between a roof-mounted structure and a roof” and directed to a roof mount assembly including a piece of flashing positioned on the substrate.  The flashing includes a first surface, a second surface opposite the first surface and an aperture extending through the flashing.  A fastener extends through the flashing aperture, a bracket is connected to the flashing via the fastener, and a water-tight seal is positioned between the flashing aperture and the fastener.

The accused product is IronRidge’s FlashFoot 2 mounting system.

The Wencon complaint was filed November 22, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Northern Distric of California and asserts infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,526,701 (‘701 Patent).

Entitled “Roof mount,” the ‘701 Patent is directed to a roof mount including a base member, an attachment mount, and a spacer extending the base member to a roof surface. The base member has a protrusion, and the attachment mount defines a hollowed region for receiving the protrusion to form a compression fitting.  A substantially leak proof assembly is formed when the attachment mount is placed against the base member with a sealing material therebetween.

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The World Intellectual Property Organization recently released its 2017 IP report entitled “Intangible Capital in Global Value Chains.”

The report tackles several questions about the types, roles, and importance of intangible assets in global value chains.  One key question is what role intellectual property plays in generating a return on these assets.

Although much of the report deals with traditional consumer products such as coffee and smartphones, of interest to readers of this blog is the chapter on innovation in the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry and, particularly, the section on PV related patent filings.

The report notes that the number of patent filing increased from less than 2,500 in the early 2000s to over 16,000 in 2011, a reflection of the growing market demand for PV installations.  Most of those technologies originated in Japan and US until 2008, but by 2010 China had surged ahead to become the top PV patent filing economy.

The report addresses the question of China’s technological catch-up, positing that China enjoyed technology transfer by purchasing production equipment from international suppliers and cultivating skilled executives educated abroad to work for Chinese companies and teach at Chinese universities.

Another finding is that China, in particular, patents minor inventions or incremental improvements while maintaining critical innovations focusing on process as trade secrets.  From this the report concludes that process innovations “are instrumental for introducing new PV products into the market and maintaining existing ones.”

According to the report, a more detailed look at the patent filings reveals that about two thirds of patenting activity relates to cell and module technologies; silicon, ingots and wafers constituted under 10% of patent filings, and the remainder is equipment.

The report finds that the growth in PV patenting activity has reversed recently; between 2011 and 2015, the number of PV-related patent filings fell by 44 percent.  This fall has occurred in all major PV innovating countries except China.

The decrease is a result of two forces, the report concludes.  The first is a decline in the number of applicants (though the number of applications per applicant has increased), particularly in the US, Germany, Japan and Korea.  This is because many players have exited the market, and market entry is difficult.

The remaining players, however, seem to be filing more patent applications and increasing their R&D intensity.  This focus on the next generation of technologies “suggests that IP-protected knowledge assets may become more valuable in this time of sectoral recomposition.”

The second reason for the decrease is a reduction of the internationalization of PV patents.  In other words, applicants are filing in fewer countries outside their home country, opting out of international patent protection.  The report finds that in the mid-2000s, each PV invention was filed on average in three different patent offices, but by 2015, the average was only 1.5.

The report notes that PV patent applicants typically file in only a few countries/jurisdictions (China, US, Japan, Korea and Europe) and rarely file in, e.g., Australia, Russia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, or anywhere else.

While most innovation studies focus exclusively on patent data, the report has an interesting section on “reputational assets” such as trademarks and brand-related activities.

The report finds that trademark protection for PV products and services has grown in the last decade.  Data from the US and international trademark application databases show that PV-related trademark filings were four to six times higher in 2016 than they were in 2005.

In the conclusion to the PV IP chapter, the report states that because PV panels and systems are now “mostly commodities rather than differentiated goods . . . the dynamics of the industry have been profoundly driven by strategies to reduce production costs, rather than by product innovation.”  In addition, the solar PV market is “saturated with an incumbent technology whose depressed prices provide tight profit margins for companies.”  Accordingly:

Firms can dedicate their R&D efforts either to high-level process innovations that will reduce production costs in the dominant technology, or to new solar PV product innovations whose production prices are below those for the incumbent technology.

With respect to China, the report calls the PV industry “a case study of a compelete form of technology transfer to an emerging economy.”

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Several new green patent complaints were filed in September and October in the areas of advanced batteries, green cleaning solvents, and LED lighting.

Advanced Batteries

LG Chem, Ltd. et al. v. Amperex Technology Limited

LG Chem filed a lawsuit against Amperex asserting three patents relating to separator technology for advanced batteries.

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on October 25, 2017 and lists U.S. Patent Nos. 7,662,517 (‘517 Patent), 7,638,241 (‘241 Patent) and 7,709,152 (‘152 Patent).

The ‘517 Patent is entitled “Organic/inorganic composite microporous membrane and electrochemical device prepared thereby” and directed to an organic/inorganic composite porous separator comprising (a) a polyolefin-based separator substrate; and (b) an active layer formed by coating at least one region selected from the group consisting of a surface of the substrate and a part of pores present in the substrate with a mixture of inorganic particles and a binder polymer.

Entitled “Organic/inorganic composite separator having morphology gradient, manufacturing method thereof and electrochemical device containing the same,” the ‘241 Patent is directed to an organic/inorganic composite separator including: a porous substrate having pores; and a porous active layer containing a mixture of inorganic particles and a binder polymer with which at least one surface of the porous substrate is coated.

The ‘152 Patent is entitled “Organic/inorganic composite separator having porous active coating layer and electrochemical device containing the same” and directed to an organic/inorganic composite separator including (a) a polyolefin porous substrate having pores; and (b) a porous active layer containing a mixture of inorganic particles and a binder polymer.

The accused products include ATL’s 844297, 425882, 346176, 494397 and A1445 battery cells.

Green Cleaning Solvents

GreenEarth Cleaning, LLC v. Benito Dry Cleaners LLC

This action for patent infringement, trademark infringement, and breach of contract was filed October 9, 2017 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 Benito breached its license agreement with GreenEarth.

LED Lighting

Seoul Semiconductor Co. et al. v. Archipelago Lighting, Inc.

On September 15, 2017, Seoul sued Archipelago in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleging infringement of twelve LED and LED lighting patents.

The asserted patents are:

U.S. Patent No. 9,627,435, entitled “Light emitting device”

U.S. Patent No. 9,093,627, entitled “Light emitting diode and method of fabricating the same”

U.S. Patent No. 9,577,157, entitled “Light emitting diode chip having distributed Bragg reflector and method of fabricating the same”

U.S. Patent No. 7,700,960, entitled “Light emitting diode with ITO layer and method for fabricating the same”

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. 8,860,331, entitled “Light emitting device for AC power operation”

U.S. Patent No. 8,829,552, entitled “Light emitting device”

U.S. Patent No. 8,716,946, entitled “Light emitting device for AC power operation”

U.S. Patent No. 9,716,210, entitled “Light emitting diode and method of fabricating the same”

U.S. Patent No. 7,951,626, entitled “Light emitting device and method of manufacturing the same”

U.S. Patent No. 9,450,155, entitled “Light emitting device having wavelength converting layer”

U.S. Patent No. 8,664,638, entitled “Light-emitting diode having an interlayer with high voltage density and method for manufacturing the same

The complaint lists the accused products as Archipelago’s A19F6027-2 and LTCA12C32524K1 bulbs.

Polaris PowerLED Technologies, LLC v. Samsung Electronics America, Inc.

Polaris has asserted U.S. Patent No. 8,223,117 (‘117 Patent) against Samsung, alleging that several Galaxy mobile phones and tablets infringe the patent.

The ‘117 Patent is entitled “Method and apparatus to control display brightness with ambient light correction” and directed to an ambient light sensor which produces a current signal that varies linearly with the level of ambient light.

The current signal is multiplied by a user dimming preference to generate a brightness control signal that automatically compensates for ambient light variations in visual information display systems. The multiplying function provides noticeable user dimming control at relatively high ambient light levels.

The complaint was filed October 27, 2017 in federal court in Marshall, Texas.

Bluestone Innovations, LLC v. Osram Sylvania, Inc.

In this lawsuit, Bluestone alleges 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 complaint was filed October 17, 2017 in federal court in San Francisco and lists as accused products various brands and models of LED lightbulbs with epitaxial film.

Epistar Corporation v. All Star Lighting Supplies, Inc.

Epistar sued All Star in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on October 13, 2017.

The complaint asserts infringement of eight patents:

U.S. Patent No. 7,355,208, titled “Nitride-Based Semiconductor Element And Method Of Forming Nitride-Based Semiconductor”

U.S. Patent No. 7,489,068, titled “Light Emitting Device”

U.S. Patent No. 7,560,738, titled “Light-Emitting Diode Array Having An Adhesive Layer”

U.S. Patent No. 8,791,467, titled “Light Emitting Diode And Method Of Making The Same”

U.S. Patent No. 9,065,022, titled, “Light Emitting Apparatus”

U.S. Patent No. 9,257,604, titled “Light-Emitting Device Having A Patterned Surface”

U.S. Patent No. 9,488,321, titled “Illumination Device With Inclined Light Emitting Element Disposed On A Transparent Substrate” and

U.S. Patent No. 9,664,340, titled “Light Emitting Device”

The accused products are All Star’s LED filament bulbs.

Blackbird Tech LLC v. Feit Electrical Company, Inc.

Blackbird Tech LLC v. Makita U.S.A., Inc.

Blackbird Tech initiated two new lawsuits September 25 and 28, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The asserted patent in the Feit suit is U.S. Patent No. 7,114,834 (‘834 Patent).  Entitled “LED lighting apparatus,” the ‘834 Patent is directed to a light comprising a housing, a plurality of LED lights coupled in an array inside of the housing, and a reflective protrusion for reflecting light from the LED lights out of the housing.

The LED array receives a consistent flow of DC current that will not result in the LED lights burning out. To prevent the LED array from burning out there is also a current regulator for controlling a current flowing through this LED array.

Blackbird accuses Makita of infringing U.S. Patent No. 9,620,989, entitled “Rechargeable battery accessories” and directed to battery pack accessories including a battery power gauge adapted to be applied to a battery pack, a light adapted to the battery pack such that the battery pack can be used as a flashlight when needed, and a connector that can be used for charging the battery pack or to allow the battery pack to charge a device.

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I’m pleased to announce that Green Patent Blog has been honored as one of the top business law blogs.

Compiled by Feedspot, the Top 75 Business Law Blogs were selected from thousands of IP blogs.  The list reflects rankings based on a number of criteria, including Google reputation and search ranking, social media influence and popularity, quality and consistency of posts, and review by Feedspot’s editorial team.

GPB made the list of 75 top blogs, coming in at #32.

Congratulations to the top five:  Law 4 Small Business, Strictly Business, San Diego Corporate Law, Business Law Post, and The IP Law Blog – Copyright Law.

Thank you Feedspot.  It’s nice to get the recognition, but the real satisfaction of blogging comes when someone tells me my blog has served as a valuable tool for research and publication of new works on clean tech IP, and the real pleasure is in creating and publishing a well-crafted post on an original idea.

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Previous posts (e.g., here and here) have discussed trademarks that are “merely descriptive” of the goods or services.  Although the registration process can be an uphill battle, some descriptive marks can be protected.

Generic marks, which refer to the class or category of goods or services, are never protectable.

In November 2014, LG Electronics filed a federal trademark application for the mark QLED.  U.S. Trademark Application No. 86/472,855 listed a variety of goods in Class 9, including mobile phones, software, wearable computers, computer monitors, DVD players, touch panels, LED panels, and LED displays for televisions.

During examination of the application, the Trademark Examining Attorney refused registration on the ground that QLED is generic as an acronym for the generic term “quantum dot light emitting diode.”  LG appealed to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (Board), which affirmed the genericness refusal in a non-precedential opinion.

The test for determining whether a term is generic is its primary significance to the relevant public.

The Board reviewed evidence gathered by the Examining Attorney consisting of several internet excerpts including explanatory text from QLED-Info.com, press releases from various companies, content from product and trade news sites, and articles from science and technology journals.

LG objected that the evidence was from industry publications and press releases and related to as yet unreleased products.  Although the evidence may be “forward-looking,” the Board said, it is nevertheless probative of consumers’ understanding of the term QLED, especially with respect to TVs, smartphones, and other goods in the application:

Obviously, some members of the relevant consuming public would research the types of TVs, smartphones, etc. that currently are available, and the expected next generation of these items, and would encounter materials like those cited above, some of which are consumer-focused….Sony is selling QLED smartphones, and companies such as Samsung, LG Display and QD Visions have been developing products with QLED displays for at least the last six or seven years.

LG also argued that there is no consensus as to the meaning or understanding of QLED and the term “is not a designation for a key aspect for a designation of the goods.”  The Board disagreed:

The bulk of the evidence discussed above uses the terms “quantum dot light emitting diodes” and QLED” interchangeably to refer to a particular type of display technology, and as an alternative to LCD and OLED display technology, for TVs, computer screens, monitors, smartphones, and the other disputed goods, all of which have displays.  The evidence clearly demonstrates that the type of display technology is a key aspect of the disputed goods.

So QLED is generic for several goods relating to LED panels, displays, and related products.  But there was some good news for LG:  it was able to register the QLED trademark for a number of other goods in the application  (see the last page of the decision for the list of protected goods).

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

Advanced Batteries

Somaltus LLC v. Universal Power Group

Somaltus LLC v. Tenergy Corporation

Somaltus LLC v. Maxim Integrated Products, Inc.

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

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

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

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

Marine Sewage Treatment

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

This lawsuit involves bookcell electrolyzer technology used for oxidizing sewage.

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

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

LEDs

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

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

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

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

Blackbird Tech LLC v. Ontel Products Corporation

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

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

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

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

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

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

The asserted patents are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Pet Products

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

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

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

The Green Pet Shop Enterprises, LLC v. Telebrands Corporation

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

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

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

Solar Powered Trash Compactors

BigBelly Solar, Inc. v. Ecube Labs Co.

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

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

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

Wind Power

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

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

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

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

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

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In an interesting case at the intersection of patent and trademark law, as well as that of functionality and branding, Change Wind Corporation (Change) has lost its bid to register its turbine design as a federal trademark.

Change filed U.S. Trademark Application No. 86046590 (‘590 Application) in August of 2013 seeking registration of the following design mark for wind turbines and wind-powered electricity generators:

The application described the design as consisting of “four vertically extending turbine blades . . . obliquely curved in a twisting manner” and extending above and blow the “truncated cone” of a tapered “cylindrical base.”

The Trademark Examining Attorney refused registration under Section 2(e)(5) of the Trademark Act, which prohibits registration of a mark that is functional.

Change appealed the refusal of the applied-for design and, in a recent decision, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (Board) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office affirmed.

Prevailing case law holds that a product design or feature is functional if it is “essential to the use or purpose of the article” or if it “affects the cost or quality of the article.”

There are four categories of evidence the courts use to determine whether a design is functional.  Those include evidence of a utility patent disclosing utilitarian advantages of the design, advertising materials touting the design’s utilitarian advantages, the availability to competitors of functionally equivalent designs, and facts indicating the design results in simpler or cheaper manufacturing.

The most damaging evidence for Change was its U.S. Patent No. 9,103,321 (‘321 Patent), which not only showed the applied-for design in the patent drawings, but also recited features of the design in its claims.  Here’s FIG. 1A (almost identical to the design in the trademark application):

Here’s an excerpt from claim 1 of the ‘321 Patent:

A wind turbine comprising:

a frame structure;

a housing enclosing said frame structure;

a rotary, wing assembly supported by said frame structure, said rotary wing assembly including rotating eccentric cams and including asymmetric, helical swept wings that rotate to capture wind throughout a circumference of the rotary wing assembly from both windward and leeward sides so that a torque input spreads evenly to mitigate damaging harmonic pulsations that would otherwise arise without the torque input spreading evenly;

It clearly recites the curved blades / helical swept wings and their function.  Thus, the Board found that the ‘321 Patent showed that the applied-for design features are functional:

The patent thus plainly discloses the functional role of the three components disclosed and claimed in Applicant’s drawing of the mark: the conical tower, the helical wings, and the boundary fences affixed to the helical wings. These features are necessary elements of the invention and are essential to the functioning of Applicant’s wind turbine.

The Board went on to find the evidence of record on advertising to be inconclusive, and also found that the design alternatives were “merely variations of a single basic” turbine design.

The Board found that the evidence, viewed as a whole, establishes that the design was functional because it was essential to the use or purpose of the product.

One lesson is to choose either the patent or trademark route for a technological design and go with it; often it’s not feasible to do both.

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Green Patents by Eric Lane - 1y ago

Green Patent Blog is on vacation.

 See you in the Fall.

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