Hanwha Q Cells files patent infringement suits against Astronergy in Germany


From pv magazine Germany

South Korea-based solar module manufacturer Hanwha Q Cells has filed another patent infringement suit with the Düsseldorf Regional Court: this time against Astronergy Solarmodule GmbH.

The Korean company filed the lawsuit on March 12 and, a week later, a separate lawsuit with the France Federal Court of Justice.

The legal action against Astronergy follows the patent lawsuit initiated by Hanwha Q-Cells in Germany, the USA and Australia in March 2019, against Longi, Jinko Solar and REC. The latter trio are said to have infringed existing patents held by Hanwha Q-Cells for its passivated solar cell technology.

While Hanwha Q-Cells' patent infringement suit was largely thrown out in the USA, the judges at the Düsseldorf district court ruled in the first instance in favor of the South Korean photovoltaic manufacturer. Jinko Solar, REC and Longi Solar appealed the judgment. Longi said, at the beginning of the year, that the appeal hearing is scheduled for April 22, 2021. Hanwha Q-Cells has now also confirmed that the appeal will probably take place in April, before the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court.

The defendant PV manufacturers claim that the validity of the patents was checked by the European and Chinese patent offices, as well as in the USA. In the proceedings at the European Patent Office, an appeal hearing was planned for 25/26 March, 2021, Longi said. Hanwha Q-Cells is expecting the decision on the appeal hearing against the patent “EP 2 220 689” this month.

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According to Longi, in October last year, the European Patent Office published a notice stating that “if the current applications are retained, the patent would be revoked in full.” In the event of a complete revocation, the patent infringement proceedings could be suspended, “with a very high degree of probability,” the Chinese manufacturer said. However, the reference is only an important indicator and not binding for the final decision of the European Patent Office.

The Chinese patent office, which also examined the validity of the patent, has so far only made a provisional decision, according to which the patent CN 1091952971 is to be maintained to a limited extent. Only in the USA were parts of the patent US 9,893,215 revoked, in December 2020. There is still no decision in the proceedings in Australia.

Almost exactly two years ago, Astronergy Solarmodule GmbH stopped production in Frankfurt/Oder. The company, which belongs to China's Chint Group, took over module production from its insolvent competitor, Conergy, in 2014. After the plant was closed, the company wanted to reposition itself as a sales and service center in the region.

Astronergy's managing director Paul Xinhua Ji told pv magazine that he was not yet aware of the lawsuit at the Düsseldorf Regional Court.

*The article was amended on March 30 to reflect that a separate lawsuit was filed by Hanwha Q Cells with the France Supreme Court of Justice, and not the Germany Federal Court of Justice, as we previously reported.

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