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Judge slams 'inventor' in GE patent fight

UNITED STATES: A California judge has refused to grant ownership rights of a key GE patent to Thomas Wilkins, the engineer embroiled in the battle over intellectual property between manufacturers GE and Mitsubishi.

Judge Lawrence O'Neill, of the US District Court in Fresno, California, ruled that Wilkins did not co-invent low-voltage ride-through (LVRT) technology, or patent number '985, despite a named inventor, Henning Lutze, testifying that Wilkins did contribute. LVRT allows turbines to keep operating during sudden dips in grid voltage.

O'Neill wrote a scathing personal attack on Wilkins in his ruling: "The court is left with the firm impression that Mr Wilkins is a game player who was more concerned about gaining personal advantage than testifying truthfully. His bias is only paralleled by his attitude that this is all a game. His definition of truth seems to be that which personally will benefit him most. The Court does not share that definition."

Wilkins, who has worked with GE, licensed the technology to Mitsubishi in 2009 for $1,500,000. He also consulted for Mitsubishi in 2008, in the early days of the Japanese company's multi-pronged fight with GE over wind technology patents, of which the '985 is now the most crucial.

Wilkins' attorneys could not be reached for comment on whether they will appeal.

Mitsubishi can extend its license from Wilkins for '985 for $1,000,000, but a spokeswoman for Misubishi declined to comment on whether the company will attempt to do so.

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