The Fayetteville, Ark., federal district court complaint, filed by Steptoe & Johnson, asserts that Mitsubishi discovered “a shocking pattern” as it defended itself against GE’s initial suit at the U.S. International Trade Commission. According to Mitsubishi spokesperson Sonia Williams, who spoke to us on Thursday, the company found out that GE had disclosed much of the technology underlying the patents it asserted against Mitsubishi in tax-payer funded studies published in the 1980s. Those studies, Williams told us, were never disclosed as prior art to the PTO when GE sought patents on wind turbine technology. Indeed, Mitsubishi claims, GE went to great lengths to hide evidence of the studies, even deleting references to the 1980s research from materials submitted to the PTO.
“GE’s patent empire,” Mitsubishi’s complaint alleges, “is built on a fabric of fraud.”
The complaint doesn’t stop there, however. Mitsubishi asserts that GE then used those fraudulently-obtained patents to squelch competition, in violation of antitrust laws. “GE knew that merely by initiating patent litigation against Mitsubishi, it would intimidate potential wind turbine purchasers and discourage them from purchasing Mitsubishi’s wind turbines while the litigation was pending,” the complaint says. The strategy worked: Mitsubishi had wind turbine sales of more than $2 billion before GE filed the ITC case and two subsequent infringement suits in Texas federal district courts. But In the two years since the litigation began, Mitsubishi says, it hasn’t sold a single variable speed wind turbine.
That’s despite prevailing at the ITC. As we’ve previously reported, Mitsubishi won a final determination of non-infringement from the Commission in February. That ruling, which GE has appealed, concluded that an earlier infringement finding by an administrative law judge was based on an erroneous claim construction.
Mitsubishi is represented at the ITC and in GE’s Texas suits by Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner. It’s represented in a new patent infringement suit filed Thursday in Orlando federal district court by Irell & Manella. Steptoe, however, has worked with the company on the antitrust case for several months, according to Mitsubishi spokesperson Williams.
GE’s lawyers at Weil, Gotshal & Manges referred us to GE spokesperson Daniel Nelson. He sent us this e-mail statement: “The claims in [Mitsubishi's] antitrust complaint alleging improper conduct by GE in obtaining and enforcing our patents are meritless and outrageous. The validity of the patents at issue [has] been examined and upheld in both the U.S. Patent Office and the International Trade Commission. GE’s conduct has been appropriate in all circumstances….[Mitsubishi's] patent infringement claims are similarly meritless and GE intends to vigorously defend itself.”