Patent litigation to rise

Worldwide: More intellectual property litigation can be expected in the coming years within the wind industry, a new report has warned.

The Mitsubishi 2.3MW turbine has been the target of patent litigation
The Mitsubishi 2.3MW turbine has been the target of patent litigation

"This is largely due to the disparity between the volume and quality of filings of the top patent holders and smaller companies," says the study from consultancy firm Totaro & Associates.

This gap will not provide many opportunities for cross-licensing, it is argued, so tier two and three turbine manufacturers may be exposed to financial risk if they infringe patents held by their bigger competitors.

The study indicates that intellectual property costs in the industry are expected to escalate, with $1 billion to be spent by 2020 and $2 billion by 2030. A move towards greater concentration of patents in the hands of the big players is also predicted.

The consultancy added that it "expect[s] the GE vs Mitsubishi wind IP litigation to start turning back towards Mitsubishi's favour."

The analysis indicates that the $169 million judgment that found that Mitsubishi had infringed GE's patent for zero-voltage ride-through technology may be overturned due to aspects of that invention having been previously patented.

GE has filed the most patents relating to turbine technology, with 1,300 patents, while Vestas, Siemens, Mitsubishi and Sinovel make up the top five. The top 10 wind turbine manufacturers control more than 54% of all patent filings.

The greatest number of patent filings for wind turbine technology came from the US where companies spent over $143 million on intellectual property protection with over 7,200 individual patent filings.

Europe comes in second, spending $112 million on more than 5,100 filings, with China third at $44 million, with over 3,700 filings.

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