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Energy & Sustainability IP Updates — August 2023

In litigation news . . .

For the third consecutive month, Tesla finds itself involved in a new patent infringement lawsuit, this latest time as a defendant in an action filed by Graphite Charging Company LLC on August 4, 2023 in the Western District of Texas. In its complaint, Graphite accuses Tesla charging stations, Tesla electrical vehicles, and the Tesla App of infringing two U.S. patents formerly owned by IBM, U.S. Patent Nos. 8,103,391 and 8,291,243, directed to infrastructures for electrical vehicle charging systems. The case is styled Graphite Charging Company LLC v. Tesla, Inc., 1:23-cv-00925 (W.D.Tex. 2023).

On June 20, 2023, iQar, Inc. filed a patent lawsuit against Tesla, also in the Western District of Texas, alleging infringement of five patents by Tesla’s Model S, Model 3, Model X, and Model Y. The case, styled iQar, Inc. v. Tesla, 1:23-cv-00694 (W.D.Tex. 2023), remains pending and has not yet been assigned a judge. Tesla filed its own lawsuit against CAP-XX on July 14, 2023 in the Eastern District of Texas in response to CAP-XX’s ongoing lawsuit against Maxwell Technologies, a company that Tesla bought in 2019 for its dry cell technology and then later sold to UCAP Power. This case is styled as Tesla, Inc. v. CAP-XX, No. 2-23-cv-00334 (E.D.Tex. 2023) and remains pending before Judge Gilstrap. Among other things, these recent litigations involving electrical vehicles are likely just the beginning of patent-based disputes in the EV/battery tech space as the industry unfolds, technology grows, and competition develops.

In technology news . . . 

  • The U.S. Department of Energy has released a critical materials assessment predicting that there will be a critical risk of a shortage of rare earth metals that are currently vital to the EV battery industry, including lithium, nickel, cobalt, and graphite, by 2035.
  • California-based electric vehicle and powertrain manufacturer Proterra has fallen victim to the “valley of death,” announcing earlier this month that it had filed for protection under bankruptcy laws to avoid running out of cash. Proterra is the third EV start-up to recently declare bankruptcy. In June, both electric truck manufacturer Lordstown Motors and delivery van maker Electric Last Mile Solutions filed for bankruptcy. Three other EV start-ups — van makers Arrival and Canoo and semi-truck manufacturer Nikola Motor — have also signaled that they are having financial difficulties. These companies are all examples of those plagued by the valley of death, i.e., the challenging time period between developing a new product and achieving large-scale, revenue-generating production when cash is tight and uncertainty high.
  • Norwegian battery manufacturer Freyr Battery is accelerating its move to the United States to take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act.


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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.