From The Am Law Litigation Daily

The winds of fortune have favored General Electric Co.  as of late in the company’s long-running patent dispute with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., over wind turbine technology.

On Thursday, a federal jury in Dallas handed a big victory to GE. After a seven-day trial that began February 28, the jury ruled that Mitsubishi had infringed one of GE’s wind turbine patents and awarded $170 million in lost profits and royalties. The jury also found that this patent, which covered methods allowing the turbine to remain online when voltage hit zero, was valid. The company was jointly represented at trial by Nicholas Groombridge of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and David Lender of Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

Groombridge explained to the Litigation Daily that he and Lender focused on making the jury understand and appreciate how wind power works and how the technology described in this patent was important. “We focused very much on the specifics of the various GE projects and felt that would be persuasive to the jury,” said Groombridge. Groombridge also pointed out that lost profits awards have become quite rare in patent trials.

The victory in Dallas was the second positive result for GE in the last two weeks. On February 29, behind Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr‘s William Lee, GE got a partial victory from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit which ordered the International Trade Commission to reconsider its findings that Mitsubishi had not infringed one GE patent. The court did not, however, upend the ITC’s ruling that Mitsubishi had not infringed two other GE patents.

Meanwhile, the feud between the two wind power goliaths shows no sign of abating. GE is pursuing infringement claims against Mitsubishi in Corpus Christi federal court, and is defending itself in an antitrust suit brought by Mitsubishi in Fayetteville, Ark., federal court and an infringement case in Orlando, Fla.

Mitsubishi didn’t walk away empty-handed in Dallas. Federal district court judge Royal Furgeson ruled that a second patent at issue in the case, was invalid. Furgeson found that this patent, which covers the structure that supported the electricity-generating equipment at the top of the turbine tower, was anticipated by a similar structure that GE designed for NASA in 1984. Mitsubishi was represented at trial by Gerald Ivey of Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner. Steptoe & Johnson and Henry Oddo Austin & Fletcher served as co-counsel.

Mitsubishi stated that it was pleased the court invalidated one of GE’s patents, but is disappointed by the verdict. The company pointed out that the case is far from over, because the trial had been bifurcated. That next proceeding will focus on Mitsubishi’s allegations that GE engaged in inequitable conduct in obtaining claims in its patent, according to Sonia Williams, a spokesperson for Mitsubishi. Ivey did not respond to a request for comment.

Email: vli@alm.com