Archive for May, 2017

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Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

May 29th, 2017

There were many new green patent complaints filed in March and April in the areas of advanced batteries, fuel efficiency, green cleaning solvents, LEDs, smart grid, and solar power.


Advanced Batteries

Somaltus LLC v. Johnson Outdoors, Inc.

On March 14, 2017 Somaltus, a non-practicing entity, filed a patent infringement complaint against Johnson Outdoors in federal court in Marshall, Texas.

The 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 Minn Kota Digital Onboard Chargers.


Fuel Efficiency

Transtex LLC et al. v. WABCO Holdings Inc.

In this lawsuit involving aerodynamic trailer skirts for improving the efficiency of truck trailers, Transtex has asserted eight patents against WABCO.

The patents are as follows:

U.S. Patent No. 7,748,772, entitled “Resilient aerodynamic trailer skirts “

U.S. Patent No. 7,887,120, entitled “Aerodynamic trailer skirts”

U.S. Patent No. 7,942,467, entitled “Aerodynamic skirt support member”

U.S. Patent No. 7,942,469, entitled “Aerodynamic skirt panel”

U.S. Patent No. 7,942,471, entitled “Aerodynamic skirt shape”

U.S. Patent No. 8,292,351, entitled “Resilient strut for aerodynamic skirt”

U.S. Patent No. 8,449,017, entitled “Aerodynamic skirt resilient member”

U.S. Patent No. 8,678,474, entitled “Self-repositioning aerodynamic skirt”

The accused products are the TrailerSkirt TS248 and TS259 flat panel trailer skirts.


Green Cleaning Solvents

GreenEarth Cleaning, LLC v. Natomas Fresh Cleaners, Inc.

This action for patent infringement, trademark infringement, and breach of contract was filed April 18, 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 Natomas Fresh, which had a license from GreenEarth, continues to use liquid silicone as a dry cleaning solvent though it is no longer a licensee.



Document Security Systems, Inc. v. Seoul Semiconductor Co. et al.

Document Security Systems, Inc. v. Everlight Electronics Co. et al.

Document Security Systems, Inc. v. Cree, Inc.

In three lawsuits filed April 13, 2017 in federal court in Marshall, Texas, Document Security Systems has sued Seoul Semiconductor (Document Security Systems, Inc. v. Seoul Semiconductor Co., Ltd. et al.), Everlight Electronics (Document Security Systems, Inc. v. Everlight Electronics Co., Ltd. et al.), and Cree (Document Security Systems, Inc. v. Cree, Inc.).

The combination of asserted patents varies by suit but comprise the following:

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

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

U.S. Patent No. 7,279,355, entitled “Method for fabricating a packing device for semiconductor die and semiconductor device incorporating same”

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

U.S. Patent No. 7,919,787, entitled “Semiconductor device with a light emitting semiconductor die”

The accused products include LED devices for the automotive market.

Epistar Corporation v. Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

Epistar sued Lowe’s for patent infringement on April 28, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The patents-in-suit are:

U.S. Patent No. 6,346,771, entitled “High power LED lamp”

U.S. Patent No. 7,560,738, entitled “Light-emitting diode array having an adhesive layer”

U.S. Patent No. 8,791,467, entitled “Light emitting diode and method of making the same”

U.S. Patent No. 8,492,780, entitled “Light-emitting device and manufacturing method thereof”

U.S. Patent No. 8,587,020, entitled “LED Lamps”

According to the complaint, the Kichler Lighting 60 W equivalent dimmable bulb, the Utilitech 60 W equivalent warm white bulb and similar products infringe the patents.


Golight, Inc. v. KH Industries, Inc. et al.

Filed March 1, 2017 in the U.S.District Court for the District of Colorado, Golight’s lawsuit asserts U.S. Patent No. 9,255,687, entitled “LED system and housing for use with halogen light fixtures” (‘687 Patent).

The complaint alleges that KH’s LED NightRay line of lighting products infringes the ‘687 Patent.

The ‘687 Patent is directed to an optical projection lens for mounting in front of LEDs.  The lens has a plurality of protrusions of varying thickness wherein the outermost edges of each protrusion has the thickest measurement, the center of each protrusion has the thinnest measurement, and the protrusions merge individual beams of light into a single beam of light.


Lemaire Illumination Technologies, LLC v. LG Electronics USA, Inc. et al.

Lemaire Illumination Technologies sued LG for alleged infringement of three patents relating to LED lighting technology.

The patents-in-suit 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.

Filed in federal court in Marshall, Texas on April 14, 2017, the complaint lists the LG G3 and G4 smartphones as accused devices.


Philips Lighting North America Corporation et al. v. Deco Enterprises, Inc.

In a lawsuit filed April 12, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Philips asserted five patents related to LED drivers and circuits against Deco.

The patents-in-suit are:

U.S. Patent No. 6,094,014, entitled “Circuit arrangement, and signaling light provided with the circuit arrangement”

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

U.S. Patent No. 7,038,399, entitled “Methods and apparatus for providing power to lighting devices”

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

U.S. Patent No. 8,070,328, entitled “LED downlight”

The accused devices listed in the complaint include the Lucera series surface-mounted LED lighting fixtures.


Putco, Inc. v. Metra Electronics

This lawsuit involves LED headlight technology.  Putco alleges that Metra’s Heise Lighting Ssystems LED headlight replacement kits infringe U.S. Patent No. 9,243,796, entitled “LED lamp with a flexible heat sink” (‘796 Patent).

The ‘796 Patent is directed to an LED lamp with a flexible heat sink and a method of installing the lamp into a light fixture.

The complaint was filed March 10, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.


Blackbird Tech v. Civilight North America

Blackbird Tech v. Euri Lighting

Blackbird Tech v. Great Eagle Lighting

Blackbird Tech v. MSI Lighting

Blackbird Tech v. Satco Products

Blackbird Tech v. S.E.L.S.

Blackbird Tech initiated several new lawsuits April 19, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

The asserted patent in these suits 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.

The complaints can be found here: Blackbird Tech LLC v. Civilight North America Corp.; Blackbird Tech LLC v. Euri Lighting; Blackbird Tech LLC v. Great Eagle Lighting Corporation; Blackbird Tech LLC v. MSI Lighting, Inc.; Blackbird Tech LLC v. S.E.L.S. USA, LLC; Blackbird Tech LLC v. Satco Products, Inc..


Smart Grid

Clean Energy Management Solutions, LLC v. ABB Inc.

Clean Energy has asserted infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,577,962 (‘962 Patent).  The complaint was filed March 1, 2017 in federal court in Marshall, Texas and names ABB as the sole defendant.

Entitled “System and method for forecasting energy usage load,” the ‘962 Patent is directed to systems and methods for forecasting energy usage load for a facility including a parameter identification module for determining periodic energy load usage of the facility and a load prediction module for generating energy usage load forecast profiles for the facility.  A set of matrices may include a matrix for storing coefficients for determining periodic changes in energy load usage, and a model parameter matrix for storing load parameter information.

The accused product is ABB’s Energy Management Software with Energy Management and Optimization Solution.


Solar Power

Allsop, Inc. v. Ambient Lighting, Inc.

Allsop sued Ambient for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 8,657,461 and 8,192,044, both entitled “Solar-powered collapsible lighting apparatus” and directed to a solar-powered lighting apparatus having a light transmissible spherical shade coupled to a housing that receives a solar cell, a battery and at least a portion of a lighting element assembly.

The complaint was filed April 10, 2017 in federal court in Seattle.

The accused product are several models of Ambient’s collapsible lanterns, including the “Coastal Blues 12” solar lanterns.

Rillito River Solar LLC v. Ecolibrium Solar Inc.

Rillito River Solar sued Ecolibrium March 22, 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

The complaint alleges that Ecolibrium’s EcoX line of products infringe U.S. Patent No. 9,422,723, entitled “Roofing grommet forming a seal between a roof-mounted structure and a roof” (‘723 Patent).

The ‘723 Patent is 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.

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Federal Circuit’s Four Factor Fiddle Raises the Bar for Patent Injunctions

May 17th, 2017

LED colossus Nichia (the world’s largest supplier of LEDs) accused Everlight of infringing three patents relating to tiny LEDs used in LCD backlights, video displays, automobiles, an general lighting:

U.S. Patent No. 8,530,250, entitled “Light emitting device, resin package, resin-molded body, and methods for manufacturing light emitting device, resin package and resin-molded body”;

U.S. Patent No. 7,432,589, entitled “Semiconductor device”; and

U.S. Patent No. 7,462,870, entitled “Molded package and semiconductor device using molded package”

The district court found the patents to be valid and that Everlight infringed all three patents.  However, the court denied Nichia’s request for a permanent injunction.  Everlight appealed on infringement and validity, while Nichia appealed the injunction decision.

On appeal, the important part of the Federal Circuit opinion relates to the law on injunctions in patent cases.

Current law on permanent injunctions for patent infringement comes from the Supreme Court’s eBay v. Mercexchange decision, which established the following four-factor test for determining whether to grant a permanent injunction:

(1) the patentee suffered an irreparable injury;

(2) remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for the injury;

(3) considering the balance of hardships between plaintiff and defendant, an equitable remedy is warranted; and

(4) the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction.

Since the eBay decision, courts have typically granted a permanent injunction upon a determination that a balancing of all four factors weighed in favor of injunctive relief and the patentee proved either irreparable injury (factor 1) or no adequate remedy at law (factor 2).

Here, however, the Federal Circuit held that proof of irreparable injury is required for a permanent injunction, regardless of whether the patentee has an adequate legal remedy, elevating factor 1 above all the others.

The court of appeal did not find “clear error in the district court’s finding that Nichia failed to prove that it would suffer irreparable harm absent the injunction.”

“Because Nichia failed to establish one of the four equitable factors,” the Federal Circuit continued, “the [district] court did not abuse its discretion in denying Nichia’s request for an injunction.”

And with that conclusion, the Federal Circuit ended its analysis, declining to review the district court’s findings on monetary damages (factor 2):

Because we affirm the court’s conclusion on irreparable harm, we do not reach the adequacy of monetary damages.

This may represent a significant change in the law, where instead of considering and balancing all four factors, the courts require the patentee to satisfy all four elements to obtain injunctive relief.

Such a shift would make it more difficult for a patentee to get an injunction after proving infringement.

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Brookings Institution Report Highlights Green Patent Problems

May 10th, 2017

A new report by the Brookings Institution notes a troubling recent reversal in U.S. green patenting activity.

Specifically, the report found that the total number of clean tech patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office between 2014 and 2016 declined by nine percent each year.  This after a long stretch of growth –  thirteen years of patent grants growing at a rate of seven percent annually between 2001 and 2014.

Here’s a graph from the report, based on data from the Cleantech PatentEdge database, run by our friends at IP Checkups:

Entitled “Patenting invention” Clean energy innovation trends and priorities for the Trump administration and Congress,” the report examined patterns in clean tech patenting since 2001, both nationally and by metropolitan area.

According to a Brookings Metro press release, the authors, Devashree Saha and Mark Muro, hope the report’s “baseline look at the pace and geography of cleantech innovation” will inform federal and local decision-making with respect to innovation policy.

The authors highlighted five key findings.  First, while green patenting has grown significantly since 2001, it may be slowing now.  This trend could be a result of funding declines by the federal government and venture capitalists over the past several years.

Second, green patenting is concentrated in a small group of technologies.  In particular, the report identifies advanced green materials, energy efficiency, and transportation (each accounting for 18% of the total) as having higher proportions of patents.

As for geography, the report concludes that green patenting is widely distributed across the United States, but large metropolitan areas are the source of a disproportionate share of the patenting activity.  Large and small metro areas show distinctive profiles in green patenting, varying in their specializations, the report found.

Finally, the report found that the share of clean tech patents owned by companies based outside the United States has grown over the years.  According to the Executive Summary, this trend reflects the globalization of clean tech industries, particular in Asian economies.

What does this mean for clean tech innovation and green patenting going forward?  Saha was quoted by Greentech Media, saying the data “raises concerns about the long-term competitiveness of the U.S. cleantech sector.”

Saha also said that the Trump administration’s plans to cut budgets for clean energy “could make this flattening a more permanent downward trend in the next few years.”

Muro commented on Trump’s budget proposal that would eliminate certain programs such as ARPA-E, the U.S. government’s energy innovation program, noting that “[t]here are critical [federal] programs that have major impacts on these industries and ecosystems.”

The report warns against the U.S. falling behind in clean tech innovation:

Given the size of the global clean energy economic opportunity, the United States can ill afford to relinquish its lead on innovation in the burgeoning global cleantech market to China or other countries.

The authors recommend that the U.S. maintain clean energy R&D appropriations at viable levels, maximize the impact of the national energy labs, preserve ARPA-E, and maintain and scale up U.S. energy innovation hubs.