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Recent Alerts

Utility Litigation Monthly Watchdog Report

Stay Informed and Alert!

eComp Consultants initiates the distribution of a monthly litigation alert bulletin to utility company executives and legal counsel within the energy sector of the utility industry. The bulletin, entitled Utility Litigation Alert, provides timely information on litigation activity occurring throughout the industry involving intellectual property associated with technology relating to smart grid initiatives and web-based customer interactions. It also serves as early warning as to potential risks of such litigation causing negative impacts to project initiatives.

See our Consulting Service page to learn about eComp’s Risk Assessment service which describes proactive ways to make sure your company is not infringing others’ IP rights, and to potentially avoid a lawsuit.


utility litigation alerts

Smart Grid Technology – July 2012

More “smart metering” patent infringement allegations filed against utility companies – the saga continues…

As more utility companies forge ahead with implementation of smart grid initiatives, more cases are filed against them with allegations of “willful, deliberate & intentional use” of products and systems that infringe upon one or more claims of patents that were duly and legally issued to their owners.

In our prior bulletin, we highlighted a case filed by TransData, Inc against Centerpoint Energy Houston Electric, and three other Texas-based utilities involving specific metering equipment supplied by Itron, General Electric, and Landis+Gyr. We have since learned that similar cases were also filed against other utility companies, including San Diego G&E, Wisconsin P&L, Georgia Power, Oklahoma G&E, Alabama Power, Mississippi Power, and Oncor Electric Distribution Company.

Specific metering equipment and wireless technology involved in the cases, and alleged by TransData to infringe its patent rights include:

  • Itron OpenWay Centron electric meter
  • General Electric kV2c meter
  • General Electric I-210c electric meter with Silver Springs Networks wireless modules
  • Landis+Gyr Focus AX meter
  • Sensus iCon electric meter
  • Elster Alpha A3 and Elster REX electric meters and/or electric meters with SmartSynch Inc wireless module

In view of the similarity of technology involved, and to promote cost efficiencies throughout the litigation process, all cases were consolidated into a single multi-district litigation action and transferred to the Middle District Court of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, a location deemed to be most equidistant to all parties involved.
An attempt at mediation between the parties in the initial case was unsuccessful and, in all likelihood, the litigation will continue on its course toward possible settlement or, alternatively, to trial.  We will report on the status in our next bulletin.

The other significant case we presented in our last bulletin (EON Corporation IP Holdings v Sensus USA) also involves smart grid technology, but relates more specifically to the infrastructure, such as dual-mode communication networks comprising subscriber units, base stations, and/or network hub switching centers, and modems that facilitate switching between communication paths.

While accusations in this case were lodged mainly against equipment suppliers, and not specific utility companies, the equipment and related component products at issue are integral parts of smart grid infrastructures and, as such, are vital to the implementation of the overall smart grid environment. There are 19 defendants remaining in this case, covering a multitude of products, such as UMA devices, Femto Access Points, modems and controllers, etc.

The potential risk to utility companies who may use the accused equipment and related components lies in the possibility that results of legal actions may cause interruptions to the supply of such products and thus potential interruptions to project implementation timelines.  Utility companies that are implementing solutions that include the products at issue would be prudent to ensure that contracts with the appropriate vendors contain adequate protection against such risks.

PREVENTION IS THE BEST PROTECTION:

eComp Consultants provides a Risk Assessment service that is designed to assist companies in evaluating the potential litigation risks associated with the deployment and/or ongoing operation of this technology. Click here to learn about proactive ways to make sure your company is not infringing others’ IP rights, and to potentially avoid a lawsuit.