Patent dispute accusations fly

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Negotiations between Vestas and Enercon to settle one of at least two patent disputes between the companies have failed. Enercon's owner, Alloys Wobben, is suing Vestas for infringement of patent rights related to technology developed by Enercon to meet grid code requirements for interconnection of wind turbines to electricity networks. In terms of accumulated wind turbine sales, Vestas is the world's largest supplier and Enercon the third largest.

Enercon is to try its claim before a British court. The British judicial system is renowned for the quality of its patent expertise. Specifically, Wobben, the owner of the patent, is suing Vestas-Celtic Wind Technology Limited in Scotland for infringement of patent rights in England and Scotland. Both companies are active on the British market. The case is to go before the High Court in London, says Enercon.

Enercon has long claimed the superiority of its turbines in the provision of grid support services and devotes many pages of its web site to the subject. The company has been deeply involved with Germany's network operators in developing the grid codes that all wind turbines must now meet (Windpower Monthly, September 2005). In Australia, where the network is not as well developed as in Europe and is at risk from instability, grid operators are demanding that wind turbines are equip-ped so they can support the grid as best they can. Enercon has been praised for its willingness to understand the problems in Australia and find solutions, particularly for its detailed contributions to the technical standards committee looking into the problem. All wind companies were invited to participate, but Enercon's contribution is reportedly the most thorough.

"It is the opinion of Vestas Wind Systems A/S that 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," says Vestas, in a report to the Copenhagen Stock Exchange.

"By applying this strategy, there is a risk that the technological development as well as an efficient competition within the wind turbine industry are hampered. This is, of course, unacceptable, and Vestas Wind Systems A/S will do their best to prevent this."

Historically, the wind turbine industry has long been accused of paying too little attention to the electrical systems side of its business. Until the entry into the business of GE Energy, Enercon has been regarded as the exception, focussing strongly on that aspect of its technology. As a result, its relations with power system operators have often been good.

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