Chinese Supremes to American Superconductor: We’ll Hear You


In previous posts (here, here and here), I discussed the IP litigation in China between American Superconductor (AMSC) and Chinese wind energy system maker Sinovel.

Recharge reports that China’s Supreme People’s Court recently agreed to hear AMSC’s appeal in one of the civil actions of the dispute. 

This is an appeal by AMSC of the Hainan Supreme Court’s decision to affirm a lower court ruling that dismissed AMSC’s copyright infringement action against Sinovel, Dalian Guotong, a power converter maker partially owned by Sinovel, and Huaneng Hainan Power Company. 

The Hainan Province No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court threw out AMSC’s suit on jurisdictional grounds after Sinovel filed a motion to dismiss in December 2011.  In that motion, Sinovel argued that the case should be governed by the Beijing Arbitration Commission, which is hearing separate contractual disputes between AMSC and Sinovel.

According to the Recharge piece, AMSC appealed this copyright infringement case to the Supreme People’s Court because it is “purely a copyright infringement dispute rather than a contractual matter.  As such, it is independent of the contracts and belongs within the civil court system.”

The of heart of the dispute is AMSC’s allegations that Sinovel misappropriated its propietary software code for controlling wind turbines and power converters.  

Specifcally, AMSC accuses Sinovel of copyright infringement and theft of trade secrets by Sinovel’s unauthorized use of the turbine control software source code and the binary code, or upper layer, of its software for the PM3000 power converters used with Sinovel’s 1.5 MW turbines.  The control software was developed by AMSC for use with Sinovel’s turbines.

The litigation has involved four separate actions by AMSC in various forums in China where the effectiveness of intellectual property enforcement remains an open question of increasing importance to the clean tech industry.

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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.