Power-One Wins Digital Power Battle With Artesyn; Questions Over PMBus™ Licensing Loom

November 18, 2007 by Jeff Shepard

Power-One, Inc. announced that the jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division, upheld the validity of the Power-One Z-One® digital power management and control patents asserted against Artesyn Technologies, which, along with Astec America, is now part of the Emerson Electric Co.’s Network Power business unit.

Bill Yeates, Power-One’s CEO, commented, "We firmly believe that PMBus™ cannot be used in the POL space without getting a license from Power-One."

Dave Hage, Executive VP with Power-One, added, "Our key patent has been validated. That sends a clear message to our customers, competitors and potential partners. We never said that we would offer a universal license for our IP; we’re looking for the right partners."

Power-One filed the lawsuit in 2005 shortly after the announcement by Artesyn of the infringing product. Artesyn never sold the infringing product and only used demonstration prototypes in the marketplace. Power-One stated that it "continued the lawsuit to fulfill its goals of proving its patent rights valid, proving its exclusive rights to certain digital power management techniques, and preventing future infringement." Since there were no sales of infringing product, the parties stipulated prior to trial to a token damage of award of USD $100. Power-One has requested the Court to enter a permanent injunction against appropriate parties to enforce the jury verdict.

Power-One stated that the verdict decided a number of important issues in its favor. The jury found both of the two asserted patents to be valid and found that Power-One’s U.S. Patent No. 7,000,125 (the ’125 patent) has been infringed by the Artesyn Technologies’ digital Point of Load PMBus compatible product. The ’125 patent applies to a digital power control system for programming, controlling, and monitoring an array of Point of Load regulators using a data bus for communication with and control of the Point of Load regulators.

The jury relied upon the Court’s main interpretation of the key patent claims in this suit in reaching its verdict of patent validity and infringement. In that interpretation, the Court construed the key term "Point of Load Regulator" to mean a dc-dc switching voltage regulator designed to receive power from a voltage bus on a printed circuit board, and adapted to power a portion of the devices on the board and to be placed near the one or more devices being powered as part of a distributed board-level power system.

Artesyn/Emerson issued a brief response which stated that they had successfully defended against the majority of the original claims made by Power-One, and that the jury had found that no "willful" infringement had taken place. It was also stated that the verdict will have no effect on Artesyn’s sales, technologies, or products.

Bill Yeates commented further, "The entire battle, both in the court and in the marketplace over digital power management, no doubt set back the time clock for overall adoption. We believe that the adoption will begin to ramp as customers understand this verdict, which proves that Power-One clearly has the controlling intellectual property for this technology. We believe the industry has been ‘on hold’ waiting for a conclusion to this litigation. Now, with a positive ruling, we can concentrate more fully on increasing orders in digital power by working to accelerate the digital revolution in the power supply industry. And while we expect an appeal, we are very confident of our digital power patent portfolio, as we have indicated for many years. With the conclusion of this jury trial our focus will include selecting partners which are qualified and supportive of our technology and intellectual property. The Point of Load market is very fast growing and conservatively more than a billion dollars. We believe that with this legal confirmation of our IP, customers and the industry will move forward to rapidly increase the adoption rate of digital power management and control – with our Z-One technology and patents as the cornerstone."

Power-One believes that its digital power management and control intellectual property covers and applies to a very wide range of digital power control products, systems, communications methods, bus architectures, and implementations, together with dc-dc Point of Load implementations using data bus communication, including the PMBus protocols.