Cleantech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

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LED lighting remains the hottest area of green patent litigation, with several complaints filed in the last several weeks. Green patent complaints were recently filed in the areas of advanced batteries and solar powered lighting as well.

Advanced Batteries

Celgard, LLC v. SK Innovation Co., Ltd.

Celgard is a North Carolina company that manufactures specialty membranes and separators for lithium ion batteries. On April 26, 2013, Celgard filed a patent infringement complaint against SK Innovation (SK) in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The complaint alleges that SK is directly infringing and inducing infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,432,586 (’586 Patent) by selling lithium ion battery separators to its customers knowing that the separators will be incorporated into finished lithium ion batteries.

The ’586 Patent is entitled “Separator for a high energy rechargeable lithium battery” and directed to a separator including a ceramic composite layer and a polyolefinic microporous layer. The ceramic layer has a matrix material and is adapted to block dendrite growth and prevent electronic shorting.

Celgard asserted the ’586 Patent against Sumitomo in February.

Solar Powered Lighting

Richmond v. Lumisol Electrical Ltd. et al.

On March 27, 2013, Simon Nicholas Richmond filed suit against a number of defendants including Lumisol Electrical, Ningbo Hangshun Electrical, and Costco for alleged infringement of three U.S. patents relating to a solar power lighting assembly and one patent relating to a wind indicator illuminated by solar power.

The asserted lighting assembly patents are part of the same family and include U.S. Patent Nos. 7,196,477, 7,429,827 and 8,362,700, each entitled “Solar powered light assembly to produce light of varying colors.” The fourth patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,089,370, entitled “Illuminated wind indicator.”

The accused products include the Color-Changing Sun and Moon Solar Stake Path Light sold under the brand name Celestial Series Sun and Moon Light.

LEDs

Lighting Science Group Corporation v. Cree, Inc.

Florida LED lighting company Lighting Science Group (LSG) recently sued North Carolina-based Cree for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,201,968, entitled “Low profile light” (’968 Patent).

Filed April 10, 2013 in federal court in Orlando, the LSG complaint alleges that Cree infringes at least claims 1-6, 9, 14, 17-20 and 22 of the ’968 Patent by its manufacture and sale of the T67 LED Downlight product.

The ’968 Patent is directed to a luminaire including a heat spreader and a heat sink disposed outboard of the heat spreader, an outer optic securely retained relative to the heat spreader and/or the heat sink, and an LED light source.

Nicholas Holiday, Inc. v. 1 Energy Solutions, Inc.

On April 1, 2013, Nicholas Holiday brought a declaratory judgment action against 1 Energy Solutions (1 Energy) in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.

The patent at issue is 1 Energy’s U.S. Patent No. 7,045,965 (’965 Patent), granted in 2006, and issued as a reissue patent on January 1, 2013. The ’965 Patent is entitled “LED light module and series connected light modules” and relates to a more reliable light module having LEDs connected in parallel for use in light strings such as Christmas lights.

According to the complaint, Nicolas Holiday has intervening rights because it began making and selling various light string sets in 2008, including the Energy Smart LED C-5 and the Energy Smart 50 LED Colorite Miniature Lights light string products.

Nicholas Holiday is requesting a declaratory judgment that the reissue patent is invalid, its products do not infringe the reissue patent, and that it may continue to make, use and sell its LED light string products.

Relume Corporation Trust v. Swarco America, Inc. et al.

Relume filed a patent infringement complaint against Swarco and Philips Lumileds on March 27, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. The complaint asserts RE 42,161, entitled “Power supply for light emitting diode array” (’161 Reissue), which is a reissue of U.S. Patent No. 5,661,645.

The ’161 Reissue is directed to a power supply apparatus and system for providing power to LEDs, particularly LED array traffic signals. The accused products are are Swarco’s FUTURLED ITE traffic signal modules.

Trustees of Boston University v. Amazon.com.

On May 2, 2013, Boston University (BU) sued Amazon in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The complaint asserts U.S. Patent No. 5,686,738 (’738 Patent).

The ’738 Patent is entitled “Highly insulated monocrystalline gallium nitride thin films” and directed to gallium nitride semiconductor devices and methods of preparing highly insulating GaN single crystal films in a molecular beam epitaxial growth chamber.

BU allegs that certain Kindle Paperwhite and Fire devices contain infringing LEDs.

Jam Strait, Inc. v. Osram Sylvania, Inc.

A Mississippi company called Jam Strait recently sued Osram Sylvania in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana for alleged infringement of a patent relating to LEDs used in motor vehicles.

Filed April 29, 2013, the complaint asserts that Sylvania’s 168/194/2825 LED light infringes U.S. Patent No. 6,786,625 (’625 Patent).

The ’625 Patent is entitled “LED light module for vehicles” and directed to an LED lamp module for use in vehicle tail lights. According to the ’625 Patent, the module has integrated dual element control circuitry, voltage and current control circuitry, brightness enhancement circuitry, and LED circuitry built in to produce a bright, reliable, long life, energy efficient LED lamp that fits all vehicles.

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.

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