Class Action Accuses Intel of Deceptive Battery Life Measurement Scheme

Though perhaps not squarely in the greenwashing category, a recent lawsuit accusing Intel of using deceptive practices to inflate figures for laptop battery life echoes some common themes of greenwashing claims.

Last month Intel was sued in federal court in San Jose in a proposed class action accusing the chip maker of designing a program called MobileMark 2007, which allegedly inflates battery life measurements, and misrepresenting the program as being objective and independently run.

According to the complaint (mendez_complaint.pdf), the MobileMark 2007 program tests a laptop computer’s battery life under contrived conditions that differ from how consumers actually use their computers, yielding artificially high battery life measurements. 

Specifically, the complaint alleges that MobileMark 2007 measures battery life with the processor running at about 7.5% capacity, the screen dimmed to about 30% capacity and the the wireless network card turned off. 

Esmeralda Mendez, the named plaintiff, alleges that MobileMark 2007 measured her laptop’s battery life at approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, but her actual life under “reasonable, real-world conditions” is less than an hour.

Ms. Mendez also accuses Intel of using an entity called Business Application Performance Corporation (BAPCo.) as a “front” for Intel-developed benchmark programs.  The complaint alleges that Intel concealed the fact that it developed MobileMark 2007 and presented it as an objective independent program by “donating” it to BAPCo. for public release.

BAPCo. is the owner of record of U.S. Trademark Registration No. 2,733,482 for the MOBILEMARK trademark for “[c]omputer programs that measure the speed, performance and/or battery life of portable computers” in Class 9 (482_registration.pdf).

Mendez’s claim that Intel’s presentation of the MobileMark 2007 program falsely implies neutral third party evaluation of battery life echoes allegations in a greenwashing class action involving the household cleaner Windex.  In that case, the plaintiffs allege that SC Johnson’s GREENLIST mark and internal rating system deceives consumers by suggesting independent verification of its products’ environmental impact.

Another common thread running through greenwashing cases is the accusation that the performance levels or environmental benefits advertised cannot be achieved under normal operating conditions. 

Similar to Mendez’s accusation that her battery life falls short of the MobileMark 2007 measurements during normal use, a recent false advertising suit targeting the Honda Civic Hybrid alleges that the car does not achieve the advertised fuel efficiency when driven in an ordinary manner. 

Rather, the named plaintiff was told that he can’t drive in a “normal manner” and get high fuel efficiency despite Honda’s claims that drivers don’t have to do “anything special” to get “terrific gas mileage.”

These are themes we’re likely to see more of as greenwashing cases continue to increase in frequency.

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.