Westinghouse Solar, Zep Settle Patent Dispute Over Panels

Westinghouse Solar Inc. and Zep Solar Inc. said they have settled a patent dispute over designs to reduce the cost of attaching solar panels to roofs.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The settlement, which covers civil suits and a case pending before the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, extends to all customers, suppliers and licensees of the companies, they said in a joint statement.

Westinghouse Solar had accused Zep of infringing patents related to ways to reduce the amount of hardware and labor needed to install solar panels. The companies were vying to have their designs adopted by more installers to take advantage of the increased popularity of the $8.4 billion U.S. market for solar energy in homes and businesses.

Reducing installation costs is important because they have remained stable even as the price of solar panels dropped. That has created a barrier for some homeowners even with tax breaks, the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group based in Washington, has said.

Westinghouse, formerly Akeena Solar Inc., sought to ban U.S. imports of Canadian Solar Inc. panels, mainly made by the Kitchener, Ontario-based company in China using the Zep design. The Westinghouse Solar design, known as Andalay, is used by Suntech Power Holdings Co.

The dispute dates to 2009, when Westinghouse Solar sued Zep in federal court. It filed the ITC case in October.

The case before the commission is In the Matter of Certain Integrated Solar Power Systems, 337-811, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington). The civil cases are Akeena Solar Inc. v. Zep Solar Inc., 09cv5040, and Zep Solar Inc. v. Westinghouse Solar Inc., 11cv3800, both U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose).

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