US-based power optimizer manufacturer Tigo Energy has filed a patent lawsuit against SMA Solar Technology America LLC, the US unit of German PV inverter maker SMA, at the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.
The lawsuit is related to six alleged infringement claims regarding the US patents 8,823,218, 8,933,321, 9,584,021, 9,966,848, 10,256,770, and 10,333,405.
“The complaint is focused on various systems and methods used in module-level rapid shutdown units that are attached to photovoltaic panels,” Tige Energy said in a statement released, noting that the complaint alleges that SMA and some of its suppliers copied Tigo innovations included in Tigo Flex MLPE solutions, which comply with rapid shutdown requirements of the NFPA 70 – the US National Electrical Code (NEC).
“This is not about all SMA's units worldwide, but exclusively about SMA America LLC,” a spokesperson from the German inverter maker told pv magazine.” The company does not want to comment on the details of an ongoing legal dispute, but points out that the US Patent Office had previously launched an investigation into some of the Tigo patents related to the new lawsuit.
The SunSpec Alliance, a US group of energy industry participants pursuing standards for Distributed Energy Resource (DER), had previously challenged the validity of two of Tigo Energy's patents in July 2021. It applied to the US Patent Office for an inter partes review (IPR).
SunSpec's filings challenged the validity of certain claims in US Patent Nos. 8,933,321 and 10,256,770, which also appear in the lawsuit against SMA's US subsidiary, and in which Tigo previously alleged patent infringements against APsystems. Tigo has claimed that these patents are relevant to the SunSpec Rapid Shutdown specification. However, SunSpec considers this allegation to be “unsubstantiated and inaccurate” and decided to file the IPR filings to defend itself against Tigo's allegations.
The US Patent and Trademark Office began the process of reviewing and reexamining the patentability of Tigo's ‘321 and ‘770 patents in late January. A hearing is planned for this November.
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