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United States

The ITC's ruling against GE, new facts come to light

US: The International Trade Commission (ITC) found that GE does not actually use the three US patents it claims Mitsubishi (MHI) stole to use on its flagship 2.4MW turbine.

The controversial MHI 2.4MW turbine
The controversial MHI 2.4MW turbine

GE believes the MHI 2.4MW turbine infringes its intellectual property rights on a number of counts. On January 8, it suffered a setback in its case when the ITC sided with MHI. Now further facts about the judgement a coming to light.

In its final decision, the full commission found that MHI did not steal GE’s disputed variable-speed technology -- the so-called ‘039 patent -- or the technology in the US company’s ‘221 patent for low-voltage ride-through (LVRT).

That reverses the preliminary finding by ITC administrative law judge Carl Charneski, who also recommended banning imports of MHI’s turbine. GE had alleged that  MHI’s turbine infringed the patents.

The ITC did not, however, address whether MHI violated the ‘985, the basic LVRT patent Charneski claimed is co-owned by Thomas Wilkins, a California engineer who does not work for GE. This is because ITC does not have the authority to correct to decide to who invented a design, said the commissioners. MHI had argued that the case should be tossed out because GE may not fully own the patent.

The reasoning behind the commission’s final decision in January, to terminate its probe, has only recently come to light in an article in a legal newswire, Law360. A spokesman for GE declined to comment on the accuracy of the article.

The fight has wide ramifications and could shape the US wind market. GE licences its wind patents to more than a dozen companies. While MHI wants to increase its modest market share in the lucrative US market and is looking at investing $100m in a factory in Arkansas.

GE expects to challenge the ruling, which means the dispute moves to an appeals court with expertise in intellectual property, in Washington.

"Our initial reading of the commission decision indicates errors that provide grounds for an appeal," said Frank Landgraff, a GE senior intellectual property counsel.

He did not specify the errors. Resolution of the appeal might take 18 months or two years. In addition, GE is trying to block US use of Mitsubishi’s 2.4 MW turbine in two federal courts in Texas.

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