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 firstname.lastname@example.org