Skip to Main Content

Latest News

Advertisement
Advertise Here
October 17, 2011
Volume 89, Number 42
p. 12

DOE Demands Solar Patents

Intellectual Property: Bankrupt solar firm developed its manufacturing technology with government grant

Melody Bomgardner

  • Print this article
  • Email the editor

Latest News



October 28, 2011

Speedy Homemade-Explosive Detector

Forensic Chemistry: A new method could increase the number of explosives detected by airport screeners.

Solar Panel Makers Cry Foul

Trade: U.S. companies complain of market dumping by China.

Novartis To Cut 2,000 Jobs

Layoffs follow similar moves by Amgen, AstraZeneca.

Nations Break Impasse On Waste

Environment: Ban to halt export of hazardous waste to developing world.

New Leader For Lawrence Livermore

Penrose (Parney) Albright will direct DOE national lab.

Hair Reveals Source Of People's Exposure To Mercury

Toxic Exposure: Mercury isotopes in human hair illuminate dietary and industrial sources.

Why The Long Fat?

Cancer Biochemistry: Mass spectrometry follows the metabolism of very long fatty acids in cancer cells.

Text Size A A

Evergreen Solar panels on the roof of a high school near Rome. Evergreen Solar
Evergreen Solar panels on the roof of a high school near Rome.

The Department of Energy is claiming ownership of three patents awarded to Evergreen Solar and plans to prevent them from being sold to non-U.S. firms. According to DOE, the technology was developed from 2002 to 2005 with funding from the agency.

When Evergreen filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August, it said it would sell its assets at auction, including intellectual property related to its solar wafer manufacturing technology. Evergreen’s wafers are made with what it calls the string ribbon method, which is designed to minimize the use of crystalline silicon. DOE says the firm used a nearly $3 million government grant to refine the method, cutting manufacturing costs by 33%.

Even with the innovation, Evergreen—like U.S. solar firms Solyndra and SpectraWatt, which recently both declared bankruptcy—could not compete with lower cost crystalline solar modules made in China.

The Bayh-Dole Act requires Evergreen to inform DOE when grant-supported research results in an invention and whether Evergreen elects to retain title to any inventions. But Evergreen did not notify DOE about three patents resulting from the grant. In such a case, the Bayh-Dole Act says DOE can demand title to the inventions. On Oct. 7, DOE notified Evergreen Solar of its demand for title to the three patents.

In an accompanying filing with the bankruptcy court of Delaware, DOE worries that Evergreen has already entered into a joint venture with a Chinese company and established a manufacturing facility in Wuhan, China. It says DOE has a statutory duty “to use the patent system to promote the utilization of inventions arising from federally supported research or development, promote the commercialization and public availability of inventions made in the United States by United States industry and labor, and ensure that the Government obtains sufficient rights in federally supported inventions.”

Attorney Charles E. Miller, in the Intellectual Property Group of Dickstein Shapiro LLP, says the government has a good case for ownership rights under Bayh-Dole. Normally, a bankruptcy trustee would decide what to do with the company’s assets, but “the bankruptcy court cannot sell assets that belong to the government,” Miller says.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
  • Print this article
  • Email the editor

Services & Tools

ACS Resources

ACS is the leading employment source for recruiting scientific professionals. ACS Careers and C&EN Classifieds provide employers direct access to scientific talent both in print and online. Jobseekers | Employers

» Join ACS

Join more than 161,000 professionals in the chemical sciences world-wide, as a member of the American Chemical Society.
» Join Now!