Maxeon files US TOPCon patent infringement lawsuit against Canadian Solar

Maxeon’s module production plant in Mexico. Image: Maxeon Solar Technologies.

Solar manufacturer Maxeon Solar Technologies has initiated a TOPCon patent infringement lawsuit against Canadian Solar in the US.

Filed in the Eastern District of Texas, US, Maxeon alleges an infringement on patents related to tunnel oxide passivated contact (TOPCon) solar cell technology.

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The company claims to have a portfolio of over 1,650 patents and over 330 pending patent applications on TOPCon, interdigitated back contact (IBC) and shingled hypercell technologies.

Late last year, Maxeon started an investigation against several companies regarding US TOPCon patent infringement, although the company had not disclosed any specifics regarding the patents or the names of companies it was investigating. The manufacturer said at the time that it had “begun actively monitoring the United States market for the presence of potentially infringing products”.

“In November we initiated a TOPCon patent infringement investigation in the US, and this lawsuit is a result of that investigation. Canadian Solar generates significant sales of Topcon products in the US which we believe infringe on our IP, and a successful result against them would set a precedent for future IP infringement actions against other TOPCon suppliers who are selling, or considering selling, Topcon panels in the US,” a company spokesperson told PV Tech regarding the lawsuit it filed against Canadian Solar.

In a press release, regarding the patent lawsuit infringement Canadian Solar said: “As one of the largest solar product manufacturers in the world, Canadian Solar manufactures and sells many different types of solar products, both in the United States and elsewhere in the world, including TOPCon solar modules. As a technology company, Canadian Solar respects and takes very seriously its own intellectual property rights and those of third parties. Canadian Solar has itself filed and received thousands of patents in various jurisdictions for solar cells and related technology.

“Although Canadian Solar is continuing to consult its lawyers and study Maxeon’s complaint, the Company’s preliminary assessment is that the claims in the complaint are entirely without merit. Canadian Solar denies that its TOPCon technology infringes on Maxeon’s patents and intends to vigorously defend itself against Maxeon’s claims. Canadian Solar is confident that its TOPCon technology and processes will be vindicated in court at the appropriate time.”

Marc Robinson, associate general counsel at Maxeon, said: “Maxeon has many patents related to TOPCon technology, with inventions drawn to fundamental TOPCon solar cell architectures dating back to the 2000s. This is Maxeon’s first action to enforce its valuable patent rights in the United States, and Maxeon will continue to vigorously enforce its patent rights in the United States and its other markets.”

This is the latest in a number of patent infringement lawsuits Maxeon has initiated or filed against a company in the past twelve months. Last year, it filed two lawsuits in Europe, both in Germany, against solar manufacturers Aiko and Tongwei.

Last November, the lawsuit against Aiko alleged infringement of Maxeon’s European patent for solar cell architectures. Maxeon said its patent relates to proprietary and fundamental solar cell architectures for rear or back contact solar cells, also known as all-back contact (ABC) solar cells or IBC solar cells. Whereas the patent infringement lawsuit against Tongwei concerns Maxeon’s shingled solar cell panel technology – European patent no. EP3522045 B1 – which it claims Tongwei has infringed on in the German market.

“Last year, we filed lawsuits against Tongwei with respect to our Shingled Hypercell technology and against Aiko with respect to our IBC technology, further examples of Maxeon rigorously defending our IP in all our markets,” said a company spokesperson to PV Tech.

Updated on 28 March to add Canadian Solar’s comment regarding the patent infringement lawsuit.

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