Suntech Power Accuses Rival of Trademark Infringement, Asks Court to Nix Expo Booth

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Suntech Power Holdings (“Suntech”) is a Chinese solar module provider specializing in building-integrated photovoltaics.  Suntech owns U.S. Trademark Registration No. 3,111,705 (“‘705 registration”) for its SUNTECH design mark (pictured above).

Last month Suntech sued competitor Shenzhen Xintian Solar Technology Co. and its subsidiary Sun Tech Solar (collectively “Sun Tech Solar”) in federal court in San Diego for alleged infringement of the ‘705 registration and its unregistered SUNTECH word mark.

The ‘705 registration (suntechreg.pdf) lists the goods sold under the SUNTECH design mark as:

Solar batteries; electric accumulators for vehicles; accumulator boxes; battery boxes; plates for batteries; batteries for lighting; batteries; battery chargers; galvanic batteries; electric batteries

According to the complaint (suntechcomplaint.pdf), Sun Tech Solar’s infringing activity includes use of the trademarks SUN TECH and SUN TECH SOLAR in connection with the sale of solar modules that are similar to Suntech’s products. 

In addition, Sun Tech Solar operates a web site at the address www.solarsuntech.com, which Suntech alleges is confusingly similar to its web site (www.suntech-power.com) and uses its SUNTECH mark in the domain name. 

The complaint also notes that Sun Tech Solar will be exhibiting and advertising using the allegedly infringing trademarks at the Solar Power Conference & Expo – probably the largest international solar power conference – in San Diego October 13-16. 

The complaint requests an injunction prohibiting Sun Tech Solar from using the allegedly infringing marks and asks for treble damages and punitive damages.

One interesting note on timing is that Suntech didn’t file an application for registration of its SUNTECH word mark (suntechapp.pdf) until August 29, 2008, one day after it filed the complaint. 

Surely Suntech would have preferred to have the word mark registration to assert against Sun Tech Solar, but the design mark still provides a strong case because the word portion of it would likely be deemed the dominant feature of the mark for consumer recognition purposes.

It’s possible that the timing of the suit itself was influenced by the Solar Power Conference, and indeed, Suntech has moved for a preliminary injunction (suntech_pi_motion.pdf) asking the court to shut down its rival’s booth at the expo.

Eric Lane Avatar

Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.