ITC investigates retailers for alleged infringement of UC-patented filament LED technology

Aug. 29, 2019

Los Angeles - The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has instituted an investigation based on a complaint filed by Nixon Peabody client, the Regents of the University of California (UC), alleging unauthorized importation and sales of filament LED light bulbs that infringe UC patents by five major retailers:, Bed Bath & Beyond, Ikea, Target, and Walmart.

The investigation is part of a first-of-its-kind patent enforcement campaign launched by UC to promote respect for its patent rights in revolutionary lighting technology developed by a Nobel laureate–led research group at UC Santa Barbara. Among the campaign’s unique attributes is the seeking of relief by a university system from the ITC—an approach rarely considered by academic patent owners. Lawsuits seeking the payment of reasonable royalties were filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against the same retailers.

“UC Santa Barbara is the first university to assert its intellectual property rights in this manner, against an entire industry through retail sellers of infringing products,” said Seth Levy, a Los Angeles–based partner at Nixon Peabody. “We’re pleased the ITC will be investigating the retailers’ unauthorized exploitation of UC’s intellectual property rights, and we hope the patent enforcement campaign as a whole continues to demonstrate the importance of respecting the rights of university patent holders.”

UC’s patents in this campaign are fundamental to a new generation of light bulb technology known as filament LED, which replaces traditional incandescent light bulbs while using about 90% less energy and lasting many years longer. Light bulbs made with UC’s patented filament LED technology are often referred to as “Edison” or “vintage” LED light bulbs because they resemble Thomas Edison’s iconic light bulbs with glowing filaments visible inside glass bulbs. This world-changing technology invented at UC Santa Barbara saves money and reduces energy consumption and waste at global scale, making meaningful contributions to solving some of the world’s most serious problems.

The Nixon Peabody team is led by partners Seth Levy and Shawn Hansen, and includes partners Staci Riordan, Vincent Yip, Peter Wied, and Matt Richards; associates Tracy Ickes and Vince Capati; and patent specialist Jason Moore.

More information about the ITC’s investigation can be found on the USITC website. More information on UC’s patent enforcement campaign, including opportunities for retailers to obtain authorization from UC to sell filament LED lighting products, is available at


Seth D. Levy

Partner - Nixon Peabody


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