Rivals clash over turbine patent

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Enercon, the world's third largest wind turbine manufacturer, is accusing arch rival Vestas of breaching an Enercon patent on lightning protection of rotor blades. German Enercon is suing not only Vestas but also the company's German subsidiary, Vestas Deutschland, the directors of the two companies and a number of Vestas Deutschland customers. In its immediate response, Vestas, the world's largest wind company, says it is not in breach of any patent and "the claim made by Enercon is not lawful."

While Enercon has made no formal statement on the matter, the legal action appears to be the culmination of a dispute on patent rights that negotiations have failed to resolve. Enercon began extensive patenting of its technology in 1994 after an industrial espionage scare which came two years after US Windpower, which later became Kenetech Windpower before being bought by Enron and then GE Wind, tried to get its variable speed technology patented at the European Patent Office. Enercon and several other companies opposed the application.

Last year, Enercon and GE reached a bilateral settlement on that dispute (Windpower Monthly, June 2004) by agreeing a "cross licence with worldwide and long term application." Enercon now has well over one hundred patents for its technology and, like all companies, is fiercely protective over them. This latest case against Vestas is being handled in Germany. Both companies refuse to comment further.

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