Split Ruling in GE/Mitsubishi Wind Turbine Patent Infringement Dispute

By Joseph Mandour on March 2, 2012

wind-turbine-200x133 Los Angeles – Wind turbine industry giants General Electric (GE) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) were both handed partial victories in the latest round in an on-going patent infringement battle over wind turbine technology.

In GE’s favor, a federal court ruled that the United States International Trade Commission will be required to reconsider its decision that MHI did not infringe on GE’s technology for turbine wind power, a reversal of its January 2010 ruling. In that decision, the Trade Commission said that Mitsubishi’s 2.4 megawatt wind turbines did not infringe any of GE’s turbine patents, thus allowing Mitsubishi to continue importing the turbines into the United States.

The long-running patent infringement battle began in February 2008, when GE filed a complaint with the Trade Commission claiming that the Japan-based Mitsubishi and its American subsidiary had infringed three of its patents related to variable speed wind turbine technology.

The most recent ruling comes as good news to GE, however Mitsubishi did not emerge without victory. The Court of Appeals upheld the previous ruling by the Trade Commission that Mitsubishi had not infringed on a second patent and also said that one of the three patents allegedly infringed had expired and was dropped from the case. Companies must be able to prove that a patented technology is being used in the United States in order to file a patent infringement complaint with the International Trade Commission.

“GE will continue to take necessary steps to protect its significant investment in technological research and development in the United States and around the world,” the company said in an online statement.

General Electric acquired the wind power assets from Enron during its bankruptcy proceedings in 2002. At the time of the acquisition, Enron was the only remaining U.S. manufacturer of large wind turbines, with GE managing to double its Wind Division’s annual sales to $1.2 billion in 2003 by increasing engineering and supplies. In 2009, GE purchased Norwegian turbine company Scanwind and eventually became the second largest wind turbine producer in the world. Vestas Wind Systems A/S, a Danish company, is reportedly the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbine technology.

No comment was available from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries regarding the ruling.

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Posted in: Patent Infringement