The Düsseldorf Regional Court has upheld a patent infringement suit lodged by Korean manufacturer Hanwha Q-Cells.
The judges ruled JinkoSolar, REC Solar and Longi Solar infringed intellectual property rights by illegally using patented passivation technology in their solar cells.
The ruling relates to the German part of European patent EP 2 220 689 – referred to as the 689 patent – which the Chinese companies violated. The patent concerns passivation technology Hanwha Q-Cells had been researching since 2008 and which is used to increase the efficiency of its PERC solar cells.
The judges on Tuesday ruled Jinko, REC and Longi used the patented technology in certain solar modules without having signed license agreements with Hanwha Q-Cells.
The Korean company said in a statement, its rivals violated its intellectual property rights by importing the offending products to Germany and marketing and selling them in the country. The judges in Düsseldorf granted injunctive relief to Hanwha, restricting the import and sale of the products in question and requiring the defendants in the case to recall patent-infringing products sold in Germany since January 30, 2019. The ruling also granted Hanwha the right to require the offending products to be destroyed.
The Korean company said the decision of the court is provisionally enforceable after Hanwha Q-Cells provides security.
The manufacturer said it will now explore how to develop meaningful solutions for the company and for an healthy innovation landscape in the solar industry.
Jinko, REC and Longi have not responded to pv magazine’s request for comment.
“We are pleased that the Düsseldorf Regional Court confirmed what we knew from the beginning,” said Daniel Jeong, chief technology officer for Hanwha Q-Cells GmbH. “We firmly believe that our approach serves to protect our property rights and, at the same time, to strengthen the confidence of the industry that time-consuming and capital-intensive R&D efforts are protected.” He added: “Furthermore, we cannot ignore the possibility that the accused companies may have applied the 689 patent to their other products. Q-Cells will continue to take all necessary measures, should our rights be violated by another party in other regions – including direct legal recourse and industry dialogue.”
Jeong also referred to a case lodged by Hanwha in the U.S. in relation to the same technology, against the same rivals, which saw the International Trade Commission (ITC) dismiss the claim. The technology chief said: “With regard to the recent U.S. ITC decision on [the] patent infringement lawsuit, we will appeal against it.”
In March last year, Hanwha filed its German lawsuit with the Düsseldorf District Court. The manufacturer also sued competitors in the United States, and later Australia, for allegedly infringing patents in those markets. No ruling has yet been issued in the Australian case. An opposition procedure against Hanwha’s patent is also pending before the European Patent Office and seeks to challenge the legal status of the patent.