Checkin’ Up On Green Patents

March 18th, 2009 by Eric Lane Leave a reply »


IP Checkups, a Berkeley based patent analytics firm, recently released a report analyzing the patent landscape for thermal energy storage technologies used in concentrating solar thermal (CST) systems.  CST systems focus sunlight using lenses, mirrors or tracking systems so the concentrated light can be used as a heat source for a conventional power plant.

The report, entitled Grid-Scale Concentrated Solar Thermal:  Thermal Energy Storage Technologies, identifies the important patents and players in the space and analyzes the level of patent protection, including patent claims assessments and key licensing agreements.

The report covers patents and published applications from 1981 to 2008 from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, the European Patent Office, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the Japanese Patent Office. 

The CST technologies covered are parabolic, fresnel lens, solar tower and dish engine systems, and the storage methods include molten salt, thermocline, phase-change materials, compressed steam, water, concrete, cement, rock, ammonia, carbon dioxide and graphite.

According to the report, United Technologies and its subsidiaries Hamilton-Sundstrand and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne enjoy the broadest patent protection for molten salt thermal storage technology, with Santa Monica based SolarReserve ready to license the technology.  Other players with significant thermal storage patents including Abengoa, Ausra, Bell Independent Power, SkyFuel, Solar Millenium and Yeda Research & Development.

Patent landscape analyses such as IP Checkups’ report can be useful for assessing the competitive landscape in a particular technology area to identify acquisition and licensing candidates and decide where to file patent applications. 

Although there are other firms out there that do patent analytics, including, for example, Sunlight Research and IPriori, when I spoke to Matt Rappaport, a co-author of the report, he told me that IP Checkups’ approach is more “patent-centric” than its competitors.  According to Mr. Rappaport, IP Checkups’ analysis is focused on the scope of patent families, the content of the patents and the breadth of the patent claims.

More information on the report can be found here, and a lightly redacted excerpt demonstrating the types of analyses used can be downloaded here.


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