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Energy & Sustainability IP Updates — March 2023

In technology news . . .

  • Darling Ingredients Inc. (NYSE: DAR) and Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE: VLO) recently announced that the companies had made the final investment decision on a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) project. SAF is the main term used by the aviation industry to describe nonconventional (fossil-derived) aviation fuel produced from a variety of sustainable resources or feedstocks, including forestry and agricultural waste, used cooking oil, carbon captured from the air, and green hydrogen. Upon its completion in 2025, the DGD Port Arthur plant will have the capability to upgrade approximately 235 million gallons of its annual production to SAF and will serve as an important decarbonization solution in the large transportation space. With the completion of this project, DGD is expected to be one of the largest SAF manufacturers in the world. See PR Newswire, “Diamond Green Diesel (DGD) Approves a Sustainable Aviation Fuel Project at Port Arthur, Texas,” Press Release, January 31, 2023.
  • For the ninth consecutive year, Toyota was awarded more patents than any other automaker by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to an annual listing by the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), leading the industry with 3,056 patents in 2022. Nearly half of the 3,056 are directed to future mobility, including 26% concerning vehicle electrification, batteries, and materials. “As we aggressively pursue an electrified future, Toyota continues to amp up its investment in innovation," said Sandra Phillips-Rogers, Senior VP of Corporate Resources and CLO at Toyota Motor North America. Patents awarded in 2022 included technology directed to optimizing energy transfer during EV charging and utilizing water generated as a byproduct of the hydrogen fuel cell to provide further value to the vehicle operator, including increasing radiator capability on demand through misting and providing water for other on-board vehicle systems.

In the patent litigation world . . . 

  • Tigo Energy, Inc., a provider of intelligent solar and energy storage solutions, continued its proactive approach to protecting its innovations by filing a single-patent infringement complaint against SunSpec Alliance in the Northern District of California on February 21, 2023. The complaint alleged that SunSpec is encouraging and inducing its members to adhere to and practice a specification concerning rapid shutdown technology that directly infringes on U.S. Patent No. 8,933,321 (“the ’321 Patent”) owned by Tigo. This action from Tigo comes on the heels of a Final Written Decision issued on January 26, 2023 from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”) of the U.S. Patent Office confirming the validity of the ‘321 Patent claims in an inter partes review proceeding initiated by SunSpec in July 2021. On the same day, the Board issued another Final Written Decision finding certain claims in another Tigo patent unpatentable in response to a separate inter partes review proceeding also initiated by SunSpec in July 2021. Tigo is also currently involved in a patent dispute pending the District of Delaware against SMA Solar Technology America LLC, which involves six patents being asserted by Tigo, including the ’321 Patent. See Crowell, Chris, “Patent Office invalidates two Tigo rapid shutdown patent claims, upholds nine others,” Solar Builder blog, February 1, 2023.


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Brad M. Scheller is an experienced patent litigator and strategic counselor to start-up ventures and established businesses in the mechanical and electrical arts, with a focus in EV and battery technologies and advising clients on patent portfolio growth, management and enforcement. He represents clients before the United States Patent and Trademark Office and as lead counsel in federal district court and appellate litigation across the country.