Common Electrical Firm (GE) has vastly outpaced all of their opponents in mental property (IP) safety in lots of industries, however significantly wind generators. Knowledge from our efforts in analyzing the panorama of issued patents and pending purposes from the horizontal axis, utility-scale wind sector signifies simply how far forward they’re. The chart under exhibits the totals of the printed portfolios of patents and purposes from the highest corporations within the US. The breadth of GE’s portfolio has been a direct results of focusing of assets in addition to previous success in licensing and litigation.
Whereas we cannot go as far as to say they’re utilizing the dimensions of their IP portfolio as a scare tactic to get their opponents to license from them, the scope of their portfolio is actually intimidating to those that haven’t taken to time to research it in depth.
It’s fascinating to notice that whereas they’re higher than the trade averages, GE’s portfolio just isn’t vastly superior to most of their competitors on a share foundation because it pertains to the variety of Excessive danger patents and apps (3% for GE vs. 1% for the Trade) and Medium/Excessive danger patents and apps (14% for GE vs. 10% for the Trade) represented on the chart above in crimson and orange respectively. Nonetheless the size that their portfolio has achieved affords them the luxurious of getting higher numbers of patents in key areas of know-how. Put it one other method, if 10% of a patent portfolio shall be topic to assertion then it is higher to have 1000 patents within the portfolio than 10 and even 100.
Apparently, they seem to make use of the patent course of as a way of defensive publication, whereby they file on nearly each concept they generate internally within the hopes that they will get the patent, however even when the applying is rejected they’ve prevented their opponents from patenting it out from underneath them. Their authorized machine consisting of their in-house and out of doors counsels work to make sure a really excessive conversion charge from filings to issuances, primarily based on the standard of declare building throughout the drafting of the unique software and private engagement with the examiners to shepherd their purposes by means of the method. They’ve additionally been one of many high utilizers of the “Inexperienced Patent Quick Observe.”
Deeper evaluation of their portfolio signifies the areas of focus for the elements and applied sciences of their portfolio. Their element focus has been in those self same areas which the trade has rallied round. Blade aero efficiency and construction, controls for efficiency optimization and cargo mitigation in addition to electrical system reliability enhancement are all traits that are seen all through each wind turbine OEM.
A have a look at their know-how focus signifies they’re principally in step with trade traits on this as properly.
Apparently a comparability of the issued patents of their portfolio vs. the pending purposes reveals some fascinating traits as properly. Right here we provide a side-by-side comparability of the issued patents on the left and the pending purposes on the suitable damaged down by element key phrase. The variations between the 2 charts point out areas the place innovation has occurred previously vs. extra lately. From this it’s clear that whereas blades are the best element on the cumulative chart, that’s largely resulting from inflow of innovation on swept blades, circulation management, in addition to the serrated trailing edge being utilized on the brand new 1.6-100m platform.
We additionally supply a side-by-side comparability of the issued patents on the left and the pending purposes on the suitable damaged down by know-how key phrase. It’s clear that sure areas of know-how growth have been extra essential primarily based on the identical comparability logic mentioned above. Efficiency optimization has dominated their product technique previously few years, and their patent portfolio displays that development.
GE can be well-known for figuring out key applied sciences that are required inside the trade at a future time limit, comparable to energy issue management, VAR assist or extra lately curtailment, after which develop a multi-patent “fence” round these applied sciences. In addition they look to bracket round their competitors with patents. That is achieved by figuring out the Excessive or Medium/Excessive danger patents or purposes of their opponents and analyzing the weaknesses of these claims to find out areas of potential IP seize, coupled with evaluation of aggressive intelligence to find out the place their competitors goes technologically. After all they’re additionally recognized to get entangled in cultivation of regulatory necessities after which subsequently patent a “system” which may regulate a wind turbine or farm to adjust to that customary, probably calling into query the allowable scope of safety obtained.
In creating the breadth of this portfolio they’ve adopted some primary tenets of IP technique in searching for blanket safety in most areas of know-how and elements within the trade house. That is the results of their targeted brainstorming periods and engagement of a broad swath of engineering in addition to inner and exterior Authorized/IP group members to determine patentable innovations and full invention disclosures and purposes. These protocols, established within the mid-2000s have served them properly in the previous few years the place the variety of filings has doubled in comparison with earlier years. This was enabled by the income generated from their profitable licensing actions, though the continued Mitsubishi litigation is probably going draining a few of that profit away.
However, one should ask if this tempo is sustainable, since every software has a sure value related to it and the income generated from licensing should exist as a way to justify the continued scope of the portfolio. The spike in filings beginning in 2003 after the Enron Wind acquisition and once more in 2008 with a deal with future licensing is harking back to the large enhance within the tempo of filings from Aloys Wobben, Chairman of Enercon GmbH, in 2002 – 2003 after the settlement of the Kenetech/Zond/Enron Wind/GE Worldwide Commerce Fee (ITC) matter by which they have been successfully denied entry into the US market. The portfolio of Enercon patent filings proved to be unsustainable as is evidenced by the sharp drop-off of their variety of filings every year these days, despite new innovation being developed on their liquid cooled generator.
Based mostly on a patent price range calculator which we developed to evaluate the year-over-year prices for cultivation and upkeep of a patent portfolio, now we have been in a position to decide the approximate prices for sustaining their portfolio. Sure assumptions needed to be made on this evaluation, so there may be seemingly some variability in the price, nevertheless we consider it to be correct inside an order of magnitude. Though the patent panorama now we have analyzed lined solely the US, we all know GE makes use of the US as their major precedence submitting locale and their international submitting technique will be inferred from a have a look at the members of the family of their US patents. Assumptions are as follows:
- Nearly all of their filings are US, CN, and EP.
- Filings which have been categorized as L or M will observe this protocol for value calculation.
- Essential innovations get filed in a broader scope of nations, particularly US, CN, EP, IN, MX, JP, KR, CA, BR and AU.
- Filings which have been categorized as M/H or H will observe this protocol for value calculation.
- Filings every year used within the calculation from 2001 – 2010 have been precise numbers.
- Filings previous to 2001 weren’t very vital and have been excluded from the calculation for simplicity.
- Filings from 2010+ have been assumed on the identical common charge every year from 2008 – 2010 for filings out till 2020.
The outcomes of this calculation primarily based on the scope their portfolio and following the protocol outlined above exhibits that the price is kind of substantial significantly within the out years. In 2020 alone they are going to spend US$31M on prosecuting and sustaining their portfolio.
Continued turbine gross sales in addition to licensing will clearly be essential to assist that dimension of portfolio. With the expiration of a core patent in February of this 12 months, US5083039 (‘039), which lined area oriented management of an induction generator in addition to dynamic VAR management on the turbine, a brand new suite of applied sciences has emerged technologically, however not essentially on the assertive license entrance.
Their current acquisition of Converteam additionally provides to their portfolio of full energy conversion and everlasting magnet generator know-how. This structure is shortly turning into essentially the most pervasively deployed platform amongst the wind turbine provide base. Nonetheless, it stays to be seen if this know-how structure shall be a part of the following wave of assertion and licensing. If historical past has something to say, then you may guess on future licensing, however the scope could also be affected by the result of the continued Mitsubishi litigation. If GE is profitable in upholding the validity of their patents towards Mitsubishi then one will presume they are going to be emboldened to pursue licenses on the brand new know-how platform. If Mitsubishi prevails, then we might see one other spherical of lawsuits from the licensees of ‘039 and the opposite DFIG associated applied sciences demanding their royalty funds again. This might depart GE gun-shy to broadly license the best way they did with ‘039 and different associated patents.
To get a deeper look into the patent panorama of the horizontal axis, utility-scale wind trade please go to the Totaro & Associates web site and ask about Wind Patent Watch, a subscription service offering a weekly digest and evaluation of the printed patents and purposes from Common Electrical and the remainder of the trade.