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MoFo Tech

A blog dedicated to information, trend spotting & analysis for science- & tech-based companies

Energy Storage:

Mandate Creates Opportunity

A proposed decision issued by the California Public Utilities Commission could be a watershed moment in the energy storage market.

The proposed decision, issued in early September, calls for the state’s three investor-owned electric utilities–Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric–to procure 1.325 gigawatts of energy storage by 2020. It would start the procurement process as early as December 2014, using an all source solicitation with a target of 200 megawatts of storage procurement targets for transmission, distribution, and customer-side energy storage systems. The utilities would conduct additional solicitations in 2016, 2018, and 2020, with targets of 270, 365, and 490 megawatts, respectively.

The mandate will encourage energy storage companies and utilities to innovate, driving down costs and making systems more commercially viable, says Theresa Cho, Of Counsel in Morrison & Foerster’s San Francisco office. “California’s experience also will likely inspire other states to consider mandating grid-scale energy storage, creating a host of new opportunities for battery suppliers and other technology providers,” she says.

In 2010, California passed the first state law calling for grid-scale energy storage. The proposed decision is targeted to be voted on by the commission in early October.

What’s in Your Product?

New law may force companies to reveal trade secrets

As new regulations on the use of toxic chemicals are implemented in California, companies may need to re-evaluate their strategies to protect their intellectual property.

The largest market in the U.S., California has taken the first step to implement its Green Chemistry Initiative, a bold new environmental law to restrict toxic chemicals in consumer products. On July 18, the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control approved the GCI’s regulations.  The regulations took effect October 1, although California’s government has rejected the trade secret provisions of the GCI, finding that they lack sufficient clarity. Continue Reading

For Whom the Bell Trolls

Government efforts to block patent troll activity gained momentum this summer, as the White House issued five executive orders and members of Congress fielded no fewer than five bills aimed at such issues as patent quality and frivolous patent litigation. The executive orders are effective immediately. But their impact won’t be known until the PTO issues rules for implementation, which could take months; the bills before Congress wouldn’t become law before 2014–if ever, says Morrison & Foerster partner Scott Llewellyn.

This fall, a bill from House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte on deterring abusive patent lawsuits has grabbed the spotlight. But it’s too soon to tell which direction the next round of patent reform will take. “There may be broad agreement that there’s a problem, but there’s no consensus on how to solve it,” Llewellyn says. “Right now interested parties should weigh in via the PTO or elected officials.”

Attracting an Impact Investor

Interest is growing in impact investing–investing that supports environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, while also earning a return.  “Interest has spread to top-tier investors who understand the alignments between positive ESG results and financial returns,” says Susan Mac Cormac, a partner at Morrison & Foerster.  Key factors for entrepreneurs to consider:

  • Impact investors will gauge your performance–and that of your suppliers–in areas including water and energy usage, training, and employee turnover.
  • Even if your performance isn’t optimal, they might invest if you are considering operational and management changes that could strengthen your ESG position.
  • Investors will want to know how you track and report your ESG performance.
  • Some “pure” impact investors will only invest if your primary purpose is “doing good” as opposed to merely mitigating the negative impacts.

For the Common Good

For-profits and nonprofits in life sciences team up

Nonprofit groups are actively supporting research to solve tough medical challenges. Life sciences and pharma companies are eager to accelerate product development. Now, new business models are emerging to leverage the strengths of each.

One example: the licensing partnership between Medicines360, a San Francisco-based nonprofit pharma company with a social mission, and Actavis Inc., a specialty drug provider in Parsippany, N.J. Under the agreement, Actavis acquires the right to market, sell, and distribute Medicines360’s new LNG20 intrauterine device in the U.S. and Canada, and Medicines360 will direct all proceeds toward driving down the cost for low-income women and to fund future product development. It retains rights to market its IUD at publicly funded family planning clinics. Continue Reading