Chinese wind turbine manufacturer Sinovel denies claims of intellectual property theft made by Devens, Mass.-based American Superconductor (AMSC) on Sept. 15.
Responding via email, Sinovel Wind Group told NAW, ‘Our company definitely refuses any accusation from AMSC on intellectual-property infringement, and will actively react to the lawsuit to protect our independent intellectual property that has been in the leading position within the industry.’
Sinovel says AMSC breached its contract by not performing up to Sinovel's – as well as Chinese grid code – standards.
‘Since the delivered products of AMSC were not in compliance with the terms stated in the contract and the network synchronization requirements from the State Grid Corporation of China, our company has stopped any further payment to AMSC and any product receiving from AMSC since April 2011.’
In fact, Sinovel claims it repeatedly asked AMSC to improve the quality of its inverters, which AMSC supplies as part of the controller system in the Sinovel 1.5 MW turbine, licensed from Germany-based Fuhrlander.
‘Sinovel has been implementing the terms stated in the bilateral contract,’ the company says. ‘Meanwhile, we have requested AMSC to upgrade their superconductive technique, product qualities and fulfill their service duties. However, AMSC has only made slow progress on superconduction over many years, and has not taken its full responsibilities to implement the contract.’
Despite Sinovel's comments, AMSC President and CEO Dan McGahn says AMSC still has a strong case.
‘We stand behind our products," he says. ‘We have taken commercial, civil and criminal action, and we have a very strong case. This is about theft. We are taking action to protect our intellectual property and will handle this through the courts.’
The crux of AMSC's charges relate to intellectual-property infringement. McGahn says the company has evidence showing Sinovel engaged and paid an Austria-based AMSC systems integrator to provide source-code data that would allow it to upgrade hundreds of turbines in order to meet more stringent Chinese grid requirements.
According to AMSC, these actions potentially enable Sinovel to deploy, independently of AMSC, wind turbine control software, including a low-voltage ride-through (LVRT) capability, on all of its 1.5 MW wind turbines in the field.
Sinovel refutes the charges, claiming its LVRT technology was predominantly developed internally by its 800-employee research and development team.
‘Sinovel proposed the improvement requirements and solutions of the related technologies and products to AMSC as early as several years ago, but AMSC hasn't been able to perform its obligations under the contract, and has not offered any solutions so far,’ Sinovel says.
Sinovel also claims AMSC has not been able to keep up with the fast development pace of the global wind power market – particularly the Chinese market – since it began to supply core components to Sinovel in 2006. For example, Sinovel says the inverters supplied by AMSC had a high rate of failure – a problem Sinovel says AMSC never resolved.
Further, Sinovel claims that AMSC has not established large-scale after-sales service teams – especially field-service teams – in China.
‘There are high requirements on customer-service quality and timely response in [the] Chinese market, and Sinovel has attached great importance to our customer-service quality and timely response," the company says. "Sinovel has requested repeatedly [that] AMSC perform its responsibilities of product replacement and maintenance, but AMSC has not made any response.’