In the anti-trust suit, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) accused GE in May of illegally trying to monopolise the US market for variable-speed wind turbines through intimidation, fraud and sham litigation, a charge that GE denies. The suit was filed in US District Court.
Additionally, the two companies are fighting over five key wind-technology patents in three other ongoing court cases—one of which goes to trial in November -- and in an appeal against a US International Trade Commission ruling. The ITC ruling was generally favourable to Mitsubishi.
Judge Leon Holmes disagreed with GE’s argument that Mitsubishi’s antitrust complaint was necessarily baseless, but he agreed that a stay is warranted. If GE convinces another court that Mitsubishi is violating one of its patents, he said, then the US company could have the right to have Mitsubishi’s ‘violating’ turbine excluded from the US market.
"If GE prevails in any of the infringement actions, then Mitsubishi’s claims in this action will be moot because GE will have the right to exclude Mitsubishi from the market," he wrote. At the core of the dispute is Mitsubishi’s flagship 2.4 MW turbine, which the Japanese company hopes to start assembling in Arkansas starting in 2011.
In granting the stay, Holmes noted that the patent-violation cases could render the anti-trust case moot, or narrow the issues considerable. He cautioned, however, that if GE is seen to try and delay the other cases "deliberately"-- or if the other cases are not being resolved within a "reasonable" time--then he might lift the stay.
"We are heartened by his suggestion that he may terminate the stay if he finds appropriate circumstances," said Mitsubishi spokeswoman Sonia Williams. Mitsubishi lawyers had argued that any delay would allow GE allegedly to continue to harm the Japanese company’s business.
A GE spokesman said: "The court found it inappropriate to go forward with the case and therefore stayed the case pending the outcome of GE’s patent infringement cases against MHI. " He added, "GE is confident that the outcome of those cases will remove any doubts about the meritless nature of MHI’s claims."