Payback Time: REC Files Patent Suit Against QCells

REC vs QCells patent

The patent battle between QCells and REC has taken a new twist, with REC returning fire with its own (unrelated) complaint.

In March 2019, Hanwha QCells filed complaints relating to its solar cell passivation technology against JinkoSolar, Longi Solar, and REC Group; claiming the companies were unlawfully importing and selling solar products infringing on its associated patents. This complaint also applied to Australia. At the time, REC said it was confident that it wasn’t infringing Hanwha’s patent.

That kerfuffle is still bubbling away (although REC recently seemed pretty confident in a win in the USA), but it looks like REC Group has found a bit of payback via another route that will keep its (and QCells’) lawyers busy.

Last week REC Group announced a patent infringement lawsuit was filed in China against Hanwha Q Cells (Qidong) Co., Ltd. This actually happened back in February but has only just been confirmed by the firm. 

The patent involved relates to REC’s split cell1  and junction box technology, which the company says was developed in-house. The interesting bit is the timing of REC’s patent being granted in China –  July 2019; so several months after QCells’ launched its unrelated action.

“As a global, pioneering solar energy company, we champion intellectual property rights and fair competition,” said REC Group Chief Technology Officer Dr. Shankar G. Sridhara. “This also means that we will rigorously defend our rights when they are being violated.”

QCells has responded, stating the complaint and alleged patent are without merit.

“The technology mentioned in REC’s statement is simply about the interconnections within the solar module,” states the company. “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.”

QCells is considering petitioning for the invalidity of REC’s patent. REC and JinkoSolar did something similar in relation to the action brought by QCells last year.

All this patent stuff can get rather convoluted, but one thing that is clear regardless of the outcome is among the winners of this tit-for-tat will be the lawyers; and both companies are no doubt now well-armed in that department.

Hanwha QCells is a South Korean company and while REC is considered European, the firm was founded in Norway and has its headquarters there but it manufactures REC solar panels in Singapore and is owned by a Chinese corporation. Confused? Here’s an explainer.

Footnotes

  1. Split cell is also known as “half-cut” solar cell technology
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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