January 2021 update: The China Patent Office has upheld the validity of REC’s split cell and junction box technology patent.
The patent infringement lawsuit war is heating up in the solar panel manufacturing world. Unrelated to the recently thrown-out patent infringement claim from Hanwha Q CELLS to REC Group over PERC manufacturing, REC has filed its own lawsuit against Q CELLS in China over half-cell manufacturing.
REC confirmed in a press release that it filed a patent infringement lawsuit on February 18, 2020. The case was accepted by Suzhou IP Tribunal on April 8, 2020, and was served on Q CELLS in China on April 20, 2020.
The patent in suit, granted in China in July 2019, relates to REC’s split cell and junction box technology, which was developed in-house. REC Group products incorporating this technology have been manufactured for more than half a decade in REC’s production site in Singapore. This specific technology is a key feature of REC Group’s advanced solar panels.
REC’s legacy TwinPeak and now Alpha line of solar panels feature half-cut cells, a trend that has been picked up by many other manufacturers. REC’s design effectively turns each panel into two twin panels, as the half-cut cells can be placed closer together and then split down the middle. The upper and lower modules halves operate independently using split junction boxes.
“REC Group’s R&D resources, time and investments have significantly contributed to set new industry standards,” said Dr. Shankar G. Sridhara, Chief Technology Officer of REC Group. “REC Group filed this action to protect its intellectual property, investments and reputation, as well as to encourage more innovation in the industry. The more solar companies invest in developing groundbreaking innovation, the more improvement we will see in efficiencies and costs per kWh and achieving full access to renewable energy generation and consumption for communities. As a global, pioneering solar energy company, we champion intellectual property rights and fair competition. This also means that we will rigorously defend our rights when they are being violated.”
Hanwha Q CELLS released this response to the lawsuit publication:
“Hanwha Q CELLS believes that REC’s complaints and the alleged patent are without technical and legal merit. The technology mentioned in REC’s statement is simply about the interconnections within the solar cell module. There are doubts about the validity of the patent on this technology, as the patent application for the technology had been rejected in Japan as of 2019.
“As a consequence, Hanwha Q CELLS categorically refutes REC’s allegations of patent infringement. We are considering all legal avenues, including petitioning for the invalidity of REC’s alleged patent.
“As an industry-leading solar company, Hanwha Q CELLS strongly supports fair competition in the marketplace and appreciates the importance of intellectual property rights of all participants in the industry.”