Green Patent Blog: In New Suit with A123 Hydro-Quebec Drills Black & Decker and Leans on Segway

Green Patent Blog: In New Suit with A123 Hydro-Quebec Drills Black & Decker and Leans on Segway

In a previous post, I wrote about patent litigation between Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec (H-Q) and Massachusetts based lithium ion battery maker A123 Systems (A123), in which A123 lost its bid to have its declaratory judgment action litigated in its desired forum of Boston.

Last month, H-Q opened a new front against A123 and also targeted Valence Technology (Valence) and Segway

Filed in federal court in Dallas, Texas, the complaint (HQ-A123-2d-Amended-Complaint) sticks with the same previously disputed family of patents, alleging infringement of three newly-issued patents in that family - U.S. Patents Nos. 7,955,733, 7,960,058 and 7,964,308, entitled "Cathode materials for secondary (rechargeable) lithium batteries" (Cathode Materials Patents).

H-Q asserts that A123 is infringing the Cathode Materials Patents by selling rechargeable lithium metal phosphate batteries for use in Black & Decker's DeWalt cordless power tools, and Valence and Segway are infringing by selling Segway Personal Transporters that contain lithium metal phosphate batteries and cathode powder made by Valence.

The Cathode Materials Patents relate to host materials for use as electrodes in lithium ion batteries.  In particular, the patents are directed to a synthesized cathode material containing a compound with an olivine structure comprising the general formula LiMPO4 where M is iron, manganese, nickel or titanium.

According to the Cathode Materials Patents, these cathode materials provide a larger free volume for lithium ion motion that allows higher conductivity and therefore greater power densities.

H-Q is asking the court for a preliminary and permanent injunction and monetary damages.

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  • 10-06-2011

I have read the chapter on the lithium dispute in the Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy [Kindle Edition] $12.99 Sold By: Macmillan It seems Naza as an expert, she said nobody really understands the cause for the increased performance in the Lithium-ion cathode material that A123 makes. So how can one patent something that they don’t really know what makes it work the way it does? Interesting observation…HQ and UT tries to claim A123 infringes and that they are using their patent. If it were the case, how does A123 make a material that has performance higher and safer than what HQ’s spin off can make? Does not a vastly different in performance and safety implies a different secret sauce and a different material? At one point, HQ’s spin off had made explosive battery based on its patent and finally went bankrupt. HQ’s other licensee Phostech is not initially making useful powder. So is their patent only theoretical and covers only a low performance cathode material? Can I simply put a few elements together and patent it so no one else can use the derivative of it? Or improve on it to better mankind? All these questions need answers. Wonder if the jury would simply say, if they have vastly different performance and safety characteristics, then they are not the same chemistry, hence not infringe.