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Mitsubishi Files Lawsuit Against GE

Thu, 05/20/2010 - 12:25pm
Jill Zeman Bleed, Associated Press Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Mitsubishi filed an antitrust lawsuit Thursday against General Electric Co., accusing the company of monopolizing part of the wind-turbine market and making "baseless" patent-infringement claims against Mitsubishi to gain a competitive edge.

The suit was filed in federal court in Arkansas, where Mitsubishi plans a $100 million wind turbine manufacturing plant. But the company said in its suit that GE's "improper conduct" is jeopardizing the plant's future because there is now little U.S. demand for Mitsubishi turbines.

"If GE is successful in its campaign to drive Mitsubishi out of the variable-speed wind turbine market, then our facility will have to sit idle," said Sonia Williams, counsel and spokeswoman for Mitsubishi. Construction on the plant is to begin in the fall and the plant is expected to build its first turbine in 2011.

Mitsubishi did not specify the damages it is seeking but said Thursday the amount would likely be more than $1 billion. The suit claims that GE's patents are invalid and that the company filed "sham lawsuits" as a marketing tool against Mitsubishi.

GE called the claims "meritless and outrageous."

"The validity of the patents at issue have been examined and upheld in both the U.S. Patent Office and the International Trade Commission," spokesman Dan Nelson said in a statement. "GE's conduct has been appropriate in all circumstances."

In January, the U.S. International Trade Commission rejected GE's claim that Mitsubishi violated GE patents to build wind turbines. A month later, GE filed a patent infringement suit in federal court in Dallas.

GE accused Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. of violating two patents. One is related to a system that helps wind turbines stay connected to the electricity grid even if the voltage is zero. The second relates to a bed frame support for the rotor, gearbox and drive shaft. That case is still pending.

Mitsubishi said before the patent litigation, it sold $2 billion annually of variable-speed wind turbines in the U.S.

"Since GE's litigation campaign began over two years ago, (Mitsubishi) has not sold a single variable speed turbine in the United States," Williams said.

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