U.S.-headquartered solar panel provider Solaria announced it has filed suit against Chinese panel manufacturer Canadian Solar in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The suit alleges that Canadian Solar, with operations in China and Southeast Asia, infringes Solaria’s U.S. patent that covers a process for separating PV strips from solar cells for use in “shingled” solar modules. Solaria manufactures modules in California and South Korea.
Shingled modules typically split solar cells into smaller pieces and then slightly layer them next to each other like a shingled roof. The result is a higher power and higher efficiency module.
Solaria asserts in the lawsuit that it first introduced Canadian Solar to its high-efficiency, high-density module (HDM) technology in 2014 when representatives of Canadian Solar evaluated Solaria’s next-generation shingling technology for a potential licensing deal. After further collaborations between the companies over the ensuing year, in which Solaria disclosed its proprietary technology and business strategies to Canadian Solar under an NDA, no deal was reached.
In an apparent reference to Solaria’s proprietary HDM technology, Canadian Solar launched its “HiDM” shingled modules in 2018 and began advertising and selling them in the United States. The modules were on the show floor at the 2019 Solar Power International. Solaria maintains that Canadian Solar’s HiDM shingled modules infringe Solaria’s patent, for which it seeks damages and injunctive relief.
“Solaria has invested over $200 million in developing its technology over the last decade to create the most advanced solar panels in the world,” said Solaria CEO Suvi Sharma. “When foreign companies such as Canadian Solar ignore American patents and violate our core IP, we will take action to enforce and protect the technology that took so much effort and investment to develop.”
Solaria indicated that it may bring additional claims, including additional patent infringement claims and a claim for misappropriation of trade secrets, if warranted.
Canadian Solar released a statement, saying the claims in Solaria’s complaint are “meritless and unfounded.”
Story updated 04/15/20 to include Canadian Solar comments.