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US begins investigation into patent case brought up by Hanwha Q Cells

Image via Flickr/Joe Gratz (CC0 1.0)

April 5 (Renewables Now) - The US International Trade Commission (USITC) has honoured Hanwha Q Cells’ request and is launching an investigation into the alleged patent infringement by Chinese rivals JinkoSolar (NYSE:JKS) and Longi Solar as well as Norway’s REC Group.

The USITC’s chief administrative law judge is now expected to assign the case to one of the commission’s administrative law judges (ALJ), who, in turn, will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing. The USITC said in a statement that it should set a target date for completing the investigation within 45 days of instituting the investigation.

The commission has identified six units of JinkoSolar, eight LONGi subsidiaries and three REC Group companies as respondents in this investigation. Their names can be found here: https://www.usitc.gov/press_room/news_release/2019/er0404ll1074.htm

Hanwha Q Cells lodged a complaint with the USITC on March 4, 2019, claiming that the above-mentioned trio is unlawfully importing and selling patent-infringing photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules that incorporate its own passivation technology. The Korean company seeks an order to stop these three competitors from importing, marketing and selling such products in the US.

Similar complaints were also filed with the US District Court for the District of Delaware against all three rivals, as well as in Germany against certain entities of JinkoSolar and REC, and in Australia against some units of all three sector players along with two distributors, namely Sol Distribution and BayWa r.e. Solar Systems.

Hanwha Q Cells said separately that this decision by the USITC signifies that its complaint satisfies the rigorous pleading requirements, including evidence of importation and alleged infringement.

"Ensuring strong protections for intellectual property signals to producers that it is worthwhile to undertake the R&D necessary to increase efficiency and lower the cost of solar energy,” commented Hee Cheul (Charles) Kim, CEO of Hanwha Q Cells & Advanced Materials Corp.

Hanwha Q Cells has a newly-inaugurated solar module assembly plant in Dalton, Georgia, that has an annual production capacity of 1.7 GW. The company says this facility is the largest of its kind in the western hemisphere.

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