Patent protagonists head to court

The Michael Jackson media circus might be the highest-profile trial this year in the US, but not as far as the LED lighting community is concerned.

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The dispute casts a long shadow over many other companies involved in selling LED lighting equipment. Some fear the prospect of having to pay large royalty fees to CK, or quitting the LED business altogether (at least in the US). And then there's the credibility of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

If you're not up to speed with what's happening you have a lot of background reading to do (see Timeline, right; and Links, p4). At the heart of the case is CK's patent portfolio: 38 patents granted to date and more than 130 applications pending. CK has licensed its patents to a number of companies, and has also used the patents as the basis for cease and desist orders to prevent its competitors from selling infringing products. While CK might be guilty of sharp business practices, the concept of deriving revenues from patent licensing is, of course, widespread and entirely legitimate.

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