Wind Turbine Litigation: Judge Orders Stay of GE v. Vestas

  • The patent litigation between GE and Vestas was put on hold pending the outcome of several challenges to the disputed patents brought at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
  • The patents at issue include both GE and Vestas patents directed to wind turbine technology, and specifically to ensuring safe and reliable connections between wind turbines and the power grid.
  • Based on scheduling at the PTAB, the patent litigation will likely be suspended for a minimum of six months and a maximum of eighteen months.

The U.S. District Court judge hearing a dispute over wind turbine patents between GE and Vestas put the case on hold last week, electing to await developments in a series of challenges brought against the patents at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). In an order signed June 7, 2018, Judge Andre Birotte Jr. indicated that the litigation is stayed (suspended) until the PTAB has issued Institution Decisions in each of the validity challenges filed by GE and Vestas (for a recap of those challenges, see our earlier posts regarding GE’s challenges against Vestas and Vestas’s challenges against GE).

Stays are commonly used by judges to temporarily suspend litigation. Stays may be ordered, for example, to allow parties additional time for settlement discussions or to allow concurrent and related proceedings time to develop. In the context of patent litigation, stays are commonly seen in disputes between parties that have concurrent and related proceedings in a U.S. District Court and the PTAB. When a plaintiff asserts a patent in the district court and the defendant then challenges the validity of that patent at the PTAB, the district court may find it useful to suspend the case pending further developments at the PTAB. If the defendant is successful at invalidating the asserted patent, then the court may dismiss the case altogether and thus save the time and effort a judge would otherwise spend on the case.

According to the order by Judge Birotte, once the PTAB has issued the final institution decision in these challenges GE and Vestas will have 10 days to file a joint status report with recommendations for potentially resuming the litigation. With the PTAB due to issue institution decisions in the last of the cases by November 2018, it seems likely that this patent dispute will not resume in the district court until the end of 2018 at the earliest. If the PTAB decides to institute a review of some or all of the challenged patents, the Judge Birotte may see fit to leave the case suspended until those reviews can be completed. Full reviews at the PTAB would likely not be completed until late 2019, meaning the district court litigation could potentially be suspended for approximately 18 months.

With the district court case suspended, GE and Vestas will now focus their attention on the challenges being litigated at the PTAB.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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