General Electric Co. (GE) didn’t infringe a patent owned by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. over a way to control the angle of wind-turbine blades to reduce wear and tear, a federal judge said.
The decision by U.S. District Judge John Antoon in Orlando, Florida, eliminates the need for a trial that was scheduled to begin later this month. Antoon ruled that GE’s turbines adjust the angle of the blades in a way that’s different than that covered by Mitsubishi Heavy’s patent.
The case is part of a legal battle in which GE, the biggest U.S. maker of wind turbines, is trying to block Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Heavy from getting a toehold in the U.S. market. GE makes about half of all wind turbines installed, and the U.S. has the second-largest amount of wind capacity in the world behind China, according to the Global Wind Energy Council’s 2011 annual report.
The Orlando case was filed in 2010 after patent- infringement suits that Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE had filed in Texas and before the U.S. International Trade Commission in 2008.
“GE’s position throughout the litigation was that MHI’s claims were without merit,” Chet Lasell, a GE spokesman, said. “GE’s commitment to the protection of intellectual property rights includes a commitment to respect the intellectual property of others, and this ruling is evidence of that fact.”
A federal jury in Dallas told Mitsubishi Heavy on March 8 to pay GE $170 million for infringing a patent on a way to keep turbines connected to utility grids during voltage fluctuations without sustaining damage. Mitsubishi Heavy is challenging that decision.
A U.S. appeals court told the ITC to review whether the Japanese turbine-maker infringed a different patent, for a way to steady the stream of energy from the turbine to the electrical grid. The initial opinion was issued in February and reissued today.
Mitsubishi Heavy also has accused GE of trying to monopolize the wind-turbine market. That case is on hold while GE’s patent-infringement complaints are being considered.
Mitsubishi Heavy had been selling about $2 billion worth of turbines a year until the litigation began, Sonia Williams, a spokeswoman for Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas has said. Since then, the company has only sold turbines from its inventory and hasn’t made others. Banks have been hesitant to lend money, and customers are concerned about buying products that are targeted by litigation, she said in a June 29 interview.
The case is Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) v. General Electric Co., 10cv812, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida (Orlando).
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