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End of the road for patent dispute -- Vestas and Enercon settle

A long running saga of patent disputes between Vestas and Enercon, the largest and fourth largest wind turbine suppliers, has been brought to a close with a settlement agreement between the two companies. Details of the settlement have not been released. The squabble between publicly traded Vestas and its smaller German rival, owned privately by its founder, Aloys Wobben, began in August 2005 when Enercon sued Vestas for allegedly breaching a patent it owned concerning lightning protection of turbine blades. This was followed in April 2006 when Enercon also sued a UK division of the Danish company, Vestas Celtic Wind Technology, for allegedly using Enercon patented technology to meet utility grid code requirements.

Unacceptable

At the time, Vestas said: "Aloys Wobben is trying to monopolise the connection of wind turbines to the grid by applying a patent strategy which aims at obtaining an exclusive right to the actual electricity grid codes." The intimation was that Enercon was agreeing grid codes with the utility sector to the advantage of its technology. In Vestas' view there was a "risk that the technology development, as well as an efficient competition within the wind turbine industry, are hampered. This is of course unacceptable and Vestas Wind Systems will do its best to prevent this."

The dispute subsequently spread, with Wobben initiating court proceedings on various patents in England and Scotland, the Netherlands, Canada and Ireland, in all cases without success. It suffered a series of defeats over its infringement claims, initially in courts in England and Scotland and the Netherlands.

In announcing the settlement in late November, Vestas said: "Among other things, the agreement settles all present legal disputes with Aloys Wobben on a worldwide basis, including the cases in the UK, the Netherlands, Ireland and Canada, which will be discontinued and the decisions already handed down will stand." From Enercon, Stefan Knottnerus-Meyer said: "We ask for your understanding that we are reluctant to comment on the agreement entered into with Vestas."

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