The patent-infringement saga within solar panel technology continues. Norwegian solar company REC Group has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Hanwha Q CELLS in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware over REC’s split-cell and junction box technology. REC filed a similar patent infringement claim against Q CELLS in China in May 2020.
The patent-in-suit was granted to REC in the United States in August 2020. REC Group developed the technology in-house and has manufactured products incorporating this technology for more than half a decade in REC Group’s production site in Singapore. REC Group’s patented solar cell assembly technology addresses the decreased overall current in solar modules caused by partial shading resulting in increased module power output and module efficiency.
“REC Group’s R&D resources, time, and investments have significantly contributed to a new set of industry standards,” says 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 kilowatt-hour 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.”
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.
Q CELLS had previously sued REC, along with JinkoSolar and LONGi Solar, over surface-passivating manufacturing technology, which includes PERC designs. The U.S. International Trade Commission ultimately found that the three companies were not infringing on Q CELLS’ designs.
Q CELLS responded to REC’s latest U.S. lawsuit:
“It is Hanwha Q CELLS’ position that REC’s alleged complaints and the patent are without technical and legal merit. The technology mentioned in REC’s statement only pertains to the arrangement of solar components within a solar module, which is utilized by most module manufacturers in the industry. This patent was registered in August 2020. Hanwha Q CELLS intends to file a PGR (Post Grant Review) to challenge the validity of the concerned patent.
“Hanwha Q CELLS is a technology-oriented company that comprehensively conducts solar technology research, development, production and investment. We have established operations in the U.S., opening a factory and investing in our production bases, contributing to local job creation. As a company contributing to the U.S. photovoltaic industry with an unchallenged leading position in the residential and commercial markets, we are confident that we will succeed in proving the invalidity of REC’s patent in the U.S.
“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.”