Cleantech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

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I will catch up on the new green patent lawsuits filed in the last few months with a two-part green patent complaint update. The first part covers May through mid-June, which saw several new green patent complaints in the areas of biofuels, fuel recycling, smart grid, and LEDs, and other energy efficient lighting.

Biofuels

GS Cleantech Corp. v. Guardian Energy, LLC

GS Cleantech recently filed suit against Guardian Energy in federal court in Minnesota, alleging infringement of four patents relating to ethanol production.

The asserted patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,601,858, 8,008,516, and 8,283,484, each entitled “Method of processing ethanol byproducts and related subsystems” and U.S. Patent No. 8,008,517, entitled “Method of recovering oil from thin stillage.” The patents relate to methods of recovering oil from byproducts of ethanol production using the process of dry milling, which creates a waste stream comprised of byproducts called whole stillage.

According to the complaint filed June 7, 2013, Guardian uses infringing processes performed by ethanol production plants purchased from a plant designer called ICM. ICM was involved in prior litigation with GS.

GS has been on an aggressive patent enforcement campaign over the last several years. The multiple cases were consolidated in the Southern District of Indiana, where the asserted patents were construed and re-construed.

Fuel Recycling

Yellow Dog Technologies, LLC v. Fuel Recyclers Arizona LLC

On May 15, 2013, Yellow Dog filed a patent infringement suit against Fuel Recylers, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,165,781 (’781 Patent).

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, alleges that the fuel pump controllers used by Fuel Recyclers to provide automotive defueling services infringe claims 1 and 16 of the ’781 Patent.

The ’781 Patent is entitled “Fuel recovery” and directed to fuel pump controllers and software for operation of a fuel pump of a combustion engine so it pumps a predefined amount of fuel in the fuel line directly to a drain conduit.

LEDs

Formosa Epitaxy Inc. v. Lexington Luminance LLC

On May 3, 2013 Formosa Epitaxy sued Lexington Luminance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts for a declaratory judgment that Formosa does not infringe Lexington’s U.S. Patent No. 6,936,851 (’851 Patent) and that the ’851 Patent is invalid.

The complaint refers to Lexington’s prior patent infringement suit against Google in which it is asserting that certain Google products containing LED chips and wafers manaufactured by Formosa infringe the ’851 Patent.

The ’851 Patent is entitled “Semiconductor light-emitting device and method for manufacturing the same” and is directed to LEDs having textured districts on the substrate such that inclined layers guide extended defects to designated gettering centers in the trench region where the defects combine with each other. This structure reduces the defect density of the LEDs.

Trustees of Boston University v. Arrow Electronics, Inc. et al.

BU continued its patent enforcement campaign against various LED makers and electronics manufacturers with another lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston on May 3, 2013. The complaint again 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.

The accused products are electronics that include certain Samsung LED devices.

Star Co. LED Technologies, LLC v. Sharp Corp. et al.

Star Co. LED sued Sharp, Sony, and Modia Home Theatre Store for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,964,489, entitled “Device for producting an image” (’489 Patent).

Filed May 17, 2013 in federal court in Marshall, Texas, the complaint alleges that certain LED televisions manufactured, imported and sold by the defendants use LED and LCD technologies that infringe the ’489 Patent.

The ’489 Patent is directed to an LED device for background lighting in which an optical device for focusing and scattering light is arranged between the light source and the image reproduction apparatus. A matrix point is formed by a number of LEDs, with four LEDs forming one matrix point and two green LEDs and two red LEDs provided for each matrix point.

Plastic Inventions and Patents, Inc. v. JS LED Technology Corp.

On June 19, 2013 Plastic Inventions and Patents (PIP) sued JS LED in the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,114,830 (’830 Patent).

The ’830 Patent is entitled “LED Replacement for fluorescent lighting” and directed to a tubular LED lighting unit with a reflective coating.

According to the complaint, JS LED’s web site offers for sale LED replacements for fluorescent tube lighting, including the model JE-T8-4C15, that infringe the ’830 Patent.

Energy Efficient Lighting

Richmond v. Walgreen Co.

Simon Nicholas Richmond filed suit against Walgreens for alleged infringement of three U.S. patents relating to a solar power lighting assembly.

The asserted lighting assembly patents are all part of the same family and consist of 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.”

Filed May 6, 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the complaint alleges that Walgreens is infringing the asserted patents by selling the Living Solutions brand Solar Fiber Optic Garden Snake solar-powered garden light.

Walton v. Solar Energy USA, Inc.

On June 12, 2013, Randal Walton filed a patent infringement suit against Solar Energy USA in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The asserted patents are all part of the same family and consist of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,178,944, 7,390,106 and 7,748,871, each entitled “Lighting apparatus” and directed to enhanced illumination lamps utilizing low wattage fluorescent tubes having reflective surfaces for focusing otherwise lost light toward a target illumination area.

According to the complaint, Solar Energy’s T-5 lighting fixture adaptors infringe the lighting apparatus patents.

Smart Grid

Allure Energy, Inc. v. Nest Labs, Inc. et al.

Allure Energy, a Texas company that provides home environment and energy management products, sued Nest Labs for alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8,442,695 (’695 Patent).

Filed May 14, 2013 in federal court in Lufkin, Texas, the complaint alleges that Nest’s Learning Thermostat infringes the ’695 Patent.

The ’695 Patent is entitled “Auto-adaptable energy management apparatus” and directed to a smart thermostat device.

Nest has been involved in a high profile patent suit with Honeywell in which it scored some major initial victories in reexaminations of Honeywell’s patents.

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.