Heraeus, one of the top conductive paste makers, filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Giga Solar Material Corporation in the Intellectual Property Court in Taipei, Taiwan, for infringing a patent held by Heraeus related to front-side paste materials used for printing on PV cells. Three paste series are accused of infringing the use of tellurium glasses technology.
Heraeus states that Giga Solar’s 590, 600, and 620 series front-side pastes infringe Heraeus’ patent TWI432539. Clients of these three pastes are Taiwanese PV cell manufacturers. The infringed patent covers, according to Herarus, the use of leaded/lead-free tellurium glasses in the production of metallization pastes. In March, Herasue announced it shares the patent of tellurium glasses pastes with SHOIE Chemical, and EnergyTrend warned that Giga Solar might be involved in patent infringement issue.
By filing this lawsuit Heraeus demonstrates its strong commitment to the PV-industry in defending its intellectual property assets against infringement. All Heraeus’ manufacturing knowledge, expertise and products are patented so that the company is able to provide its customers with the best conductive paste solutions.
“Heraeus continuously invests significant resources in the development to enhance our portfolio of innovative metallization pastes to meet the needs of our customers to produce more competitive solar cell products”, said Andreas Liebheit, Head of Heraeus Photovoltaics Global Business Unit.
Patent Wars among Metallization Pastes
Conductive pastes are one of the crucial materials for producing PV cells. They are relatively more profitable than other component. The world’s top four paste makers are: DuPont (USA), Samsung SDI (South Korea), Heraeus (Germany) and Giga Solar (Taiwan). In recent year, there have been several patent infringement lawsuit filed because of infringed raw materials or formula.
DuPont and Heraeus had been undergoing lawsuits for paste patent for years, while both companies agreed to settle in 2013. However, DuPont accused SunEdison of using patent-infringed front-side silver paste to prodcue PV cells in the U.S. The lawsuit was translated into a strategy to interrupt Samsung SDI to expand its market share in the nation. Basically, DuPont launched the two lawsuits for protecting their lead material technology used in pastes. The lawsuits therefore accelerated developing lead-free pastes, which is more attractive to European and American clients due to their eco-friendly concepts.
However, lead-free pastes could lead to tellurium-related patent infringement. Heraeus owns patents on certain tellurium technology, and this is the cause of filing the patent infringement lawsuit against Giga Solar.
Limited impact, at least in the short-term period
Although Heraeus launches the patent lawsuit against Giga Solar, EnergyTrend believes the related impact will be limited. First, patent infringement is not an immediate and serious issue in China, where most Giga Solar’s customers ship their product to. Second, Giga Solar has been developing its market share in China, and the demand seems to remain stable in near future. As a result, PV cell manufacturers will not introduce any new strategy before they have completely and comprehensively evaluated actual influences brought by the patent infringement issue.
Nonetheless, it is possible for DuPont and Samsung SDI to earn some benefit under the patent lawsuit between Heraeus and Giga Solar, expects EnergyTrend.