U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board rules in favor of Q Cells in patent dispute with REC

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From pv magazine Germany

In a review process initiated by Hanwha Solutions, the parent of Hanwha Q Cells, the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board declared on Dec. 9 that all contested claims of REC Solar’s U.S. patent No. 10,749,060 (Patent 060) are not patentable. It determined that the challenged REC Solar patent claims are directed to a well-known arrangement of solar components within a solar module, and fail to satisfy the requirements of patentability.

REC challenged Hanwha Solutions in a patent infringement lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware in 2020. The court’s judges suspended the dispute for the duration of the inter partes review procedure. In early January, the deadline was extended again.

Q Cells said in a statement that the U.S. decision follows similar rulings in relation to REC Solar’s global patents. Last year, the Beijing Intellectual Property Court and European Patent Office issued favorable rulings for Hanwha Solutions over a Chinese patent, 201480038577.X, and a European patent, EP3017520. The two patents are related to REC Solar’s 060 patent. However, REC Solar declined to comment when contacted by pv magazine.

In March 2019, Hanwha Q Cells filed patent infringement complaints in Germany against Jinko Solar and REC Group, and followed this with a similar lawsuit against Longi Solar. The complaints claimed that the companies had unlawfully included Q Cells’ patented passivation technology in their own products. In June 2020, the Düsseldorf regional court determined that the three defendants had infringed upon the German part of the patent. The appeal process is still ongoing.

Hanwha Q Cells has also filed patent-related complaints in France, the Netherlands, and the United States. The U.S. Court of Appeals has determined that the complaint over the disputed patent was invalid. The European Patent Office, meanwhile, confirmed the validity of the passivation tech patent in June 2020, with only minor changes.

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