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GE files complaint against Vestas Wind Systems for patent infringement

General Electric Co filed a patent infringement complaint in the U.S. District Court of California against Danish wind turbine company Vestas Wind Systems A/S and its U.S. subsidiary, Vestas American Wind Technology Inc., for allegedly infringing on GE technology that addresses voltage drops associated with wind turbines connected to the grid.

GE's Zero Voltage Ride Through technology couples a wind turbine generator with an electric power system to ensure the wind turbine continues to produce electricity when voltage falls due to events like lightning strikes, short circuits and large electrical loads. According to the 42-page civil suit, Vestas has used the GE's Zero Voltage Ride Through technology on at least four wind turbine models that have been deployed at 19 wind farms across 11 states.

Citing product descriptions and company brochures, GE said Vestas' wind turbines have ride-through capabilities that allow them to "support grid levels and stability in the event of grid disturbances," thus infringing on the company's patent. The infringement is "willful and egregious," the July 31 complaint stated.

GE added that Vestas has known about the patent since 2011, when Vestas American and one of its engineers, Steven Saylors, were subpoenaed to testify in GE's complaint against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas Inc. for using similar technology in their turbines. GE went on to win that case and was originally awarded $166.8 million in lost profits and $3.4 million in royalty damages by the court. GE and Mitsubishi settled in 2013.

Vestas released a statement Aug. 2 saying the company is aware of the patent complaint from GE and plans to fight it.

"As Vestas has only just received the complaint, we have therefore not been able to study it in detail," the statement said. "However, based on our initial assessment, we strongly believe that the complaint is without merit and intend to challenge it."