Recent Posts:

Nichia and Seoul to End Global LED Patent Wars

Eric Lane: February 27, 2009, 10:07 AM
Earlier this month Nichia and Seoul Semiconductor (Seoul), whose bitter LED patent battles spanned courts and administrative bodies across three continents, announced that they have resolved almost all of their litigation.  The parties will enter a cross-licensing agreement covering their LED and laser diode technology. The disputes included patent infringement claims involving utility and design patents, false advertising and defamation claims, as well as claims of anti-competitive conduct.  The suits raged in Europe, Japan, Korea and Germany, as well as multiple U.S. jurisdictions, including Texas, California, Michigan and the International Trade Commission. Some of the highlights (or lowlights, as it were) included:
A Nichia “victory??? in an LED design patent case where Seoul made only two sales of infringing products amounting to $62 in damages; the court awarded a judgment of the $250 statutory minimum. (See my posts on this case here and here.) A Nichia suit accusing Seoul of false advertising and unfair competition in connection with Seoul press releases claiming the company’s accused products were “actually non-infringing??? and it had “substantially prevailed??? in litigation when in fact a jury had found Seoul willfully infringed all four Nichia design patents. (See my post on this case here.) A Seoul suit accusing Nichia of monopolization and attempted monopolization by pursuing baseless lawsuits to preserve its monopoly power in the white side-view LED market, including allegedly contriving a fake purchase of Seoul LEDs just to create a U.S. sale and establish jurisdiction for an infringement suit. (See my post on this case here.)
One interesting epilogue is that Nichia put out a follow-up press release taking pains to deny any cooperative arrangements between Nichia and Seoul that might suggest collusion or other anti-competitive behavior.   The press release noted some media reports of cooperation between the two competitors, which may have included Communist media because Nichia made clear that it is “by no means a ‘comrade’ of [Seoul].??? The LED wars between Nichia and Seoul involved so many lawsuits and so much bad blood, that it reached the point where a new complaint filed was no longer news.  But the bitter rivals finally making peace is definitely news. Eric Lane is a patent attorney and intellectual property lawyer at Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps in San Diego, where he is in the Intellectual Property and Climate Change & Clean Technology practices.  Eric is the founder and author of Green Patent Blog, which provides discussion and analysis of intellectual property law issues in clean technology.

San Francisco Files Wave Power Application

Michael Kanellos: February 27, 2009, 8:33 AM
The City of San Francisco has filed an application for a wave power farm that could produce up to 30 megawatts of power. Details, however, are vague to nonexistent. What sort of wave machines would be built? Who would own and maintain them, etc. All that is TBA. Nonetheless it's a start. Wave and tidal power are in the embryonic stages but proponents say the business could take off in the 2010s. Pelamis Wave Power launched the first commercial wave power device off the coast of Portugal last Fall and a couple of companies, such as Ireland's Open Hydro (tidal power), have launched large-scale prototypes. The big challenges? Building something that can survive Neptune's fury. Tidal turbines tested in New York's East River have come up mangled. Finavera Renewables launched a demo wave bobber off the coast of Oregon last year. It sank. Then there is the problem of economics. SF Mayor Gavin Newsom wants to see tidal turbines go into the water as well but the city's Public Utility Commission concluded that the devices would require $750,000 a year in maintenance and would not provide enough power to be cost-effective. And if those two work out, you have to figure out how to deliver power to large urban centers. Still, progress continues and several nations are dumping money into R&D. Oil services companies, who will put these things out there, also are warming up to the waves. It's like the wind industry was in the 80s, everyone tells me. Six years from now, there could be 1 gigawatt of marine power worldwide. Startup Aquamarine says it will build 1 gigawatt of wave and tidal power in the U.K. by 2020 alone.

Sempra Wants DOE Loan Guarantees to Expand Low-Cost Solar Plant

Jeff St. John: February 27, 2009, 8:32 AM
Sempra Energy, owner and operator of what some have called the cheapest solar photovoltaic power plant in the world, wants to expand the project from 10 megawatts to 50 megawatts starting this year — but the utility holding company will need federal loan guarantees to do it. So the timeline for a $200 million expansion of Sempra's El Dorado solar plant will depend on how fast the Department of Energy can start disbursing loan guarantees called for in the massive stimulus package signed into law last week, Sempra CEO Michael Allman said Friday. "If we're able to get the loan subsidy, we could be breaking ground in the second quarter on the world's largest PV plant," Allman said at the Pacific Crest Clean Technology Conference in San Francisco. Without it, "It's still a question mark."  Energy Secretary Steven Chu has pledged to speed DOE's process for getting billions of dollars of grants and loan guarantees in the stimulus bill out to the companies that need them to boost renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.  But the $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy, energy efficiency and electricity transmission projects will come through a DOE program that has failed to give out a single loan guarantee since it launched in 2005. The El Dorado project gained attention in December when Pacific Crest analyst Mark Bachman said it was producing electricity at below the price of conventional power in the United States (see First Solar Reached Grid-Parity Milestone, Says Report). The project uses solar panels from First Solar (NSDQ: FSLR) and its power is sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Co.  Allman wouldn't reveal the cost of power from El Dorado, saying only that it was the "lowest cost electricity ever produced anywhere in the world from solar power." First Solar, which makes cadmium-telluride thin-film solar panels at what is generally acknowledged to be the lowest price in the industry, made a splash this week by reporting that it had cut its costs below the magic $1-per-watt level (see FIrst Solar Cuts Production Costs to $0.98 Per Watt).  "I don't know of anyone in the silicon space is coming close to that," Allman said. Still, he wouldn't say whether Sempra had committed to using First Solar panels for its El Dorado expansion, noting that silicon solar panels could see a steep drop in price that makes them worth considering. Sempra is also seeking federal loan guarantees for an even larger PV project it wants to build in Arizona, Allman said. The Mesquite Solar project outside Phoenix is envisioned to grow as large as 400 megawatts and could cost $1 billion when complete, he said.