SolarDock Sues Former Disciples of the Mount

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Blue Sunny Skies and Sun Energy Partners f/k/a McConnell Energy Solutions and d/b/a SolarDock is a Delaware company that makes solar module mounting systems.

SolarDock owns U.S. Patent No. 6,968,654, entitled “Solar panel mounting structure, solar panel system, and methods of making and installing thereof” (’654 Patent).

In a recent complaint filed in federal court in Delaware, SolarDock accused, inter alia, PV Thermal Solar, MJM Fabrications (MJM) and Dave Lewenz (a former independent contractor for SolarDock) of infringing the ’654 Patent.

According to SolarDock’s Complaint, Michael Moulder, a co-inventor named on the ’654 Patent, assigned the patent to McConnell Energy Solutions (which subsequently assigned it to Blue Sunny Skies) and later formed MJM, which is making infringing SolarDock systems.

SolarDock also alleges that PV Thermal Solar, co-founded by Lewenz and Moulder, is selling infringing solar racking systems:

Further upon information and belief, PV, through its division SR2, used SOLARDOCK’S proprietary and confidential information to create racking systems that compete directly with the SolarDock system and fall within the scope of one or more claims of the ’654 patent. Such racking systems include SR2′s SolarRac2 system.

The ’654 Patent is directed to a solar panel unit (100) comprising a mounting structure (10) and a solar panel (P) supported by the mounting structure.

The frame (12) of the mounting structure (10) includes a front wall (20), a bottom wall (22), and a back wall (24) forming an elongated chamber (26). First and second panel supports (30, 32) support the panel (P).

The front wall (20) of the mounting structure (10) is arranged to face a direction of the predominant supply of sunlight, and the inclination angle (α) of the mounting structure (10) can be preselected according to the latitude of the installation site.

According to the ’654 Patent, the panel unit’s simple design confers several advantages. First, it makes the unit easy and inexpensive to manufacture. In addition, installation is quick and easy and requires minimal skill. Finally, the mounting structure is very light in weight and can be transported easily by a single technician.

This case is another recent example of solar patent litigation moving downstream to disputes over mounting systems. A major patent war between Zep Solar and Westinghouse Solar (formerly Akeena Solar) recently settled.

Eric Lane is a patent attorney at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP in San Diego and the author of Green Patent Blog. Mr. Lane can be reached at elane@mckennalong.com

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

2 Comments

  1. All these escalating solar patent litigation related disputes coupled with the major patent wars among top companies are casting a shadow on the solar market. If things don’t go smooth, I’m afraid these would lead to a major downfall in this domain, which could potentially hurt their sales. This in turn would shake people’s confidence in the top solar companies. Swift settlement of solar power related disputes are always desirable.

  2. Michael Small on

    Hard to see how the SolarDock system is infringing on the SR2 system? It appears from the web site, http://www.solarrac2.com. The SolarRac2 system uses a strut to mount the panel, while the SolarDock system uses a self formed lip that the panel rests on back and front. The SolarDock system is enclosed, while the SR2 system is open and it appears to act as an airfoil. The SR2 system has some pretty impressive ballasted weight numbers according to the web site. Sounds like the SolarDock folks got out smarted by the original inventor of the SolarDock system Moulder.

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