Trade Commission probes Lumileds allegations

Dec. 14, 2005
Lumileds Lighting's complaint of patent violation by Epistar and UEC is to be investigated further.
The US International Trade Commission (USITC) is to follow up the recent complaint of patent violation filed by Lumileds Lighting against two of its major competitors.

Last month, Lumileds said that it was suing Taiwan-based United Epitaxy Company (UEC) and Epistar Corporation over what it saw as violation of some key patents relating to AlGaInP LED manufacture (see Lumileds asserts AlGaInP patents against UEC and Epistar).

The technologies under dispute include Epistar’s omnidirectional mirror adhesion LED products and UEC’s metal-bond and glue-bond LEDs. UEC and Epistar are set to merge their operations at the end of the calendar year.

The USITC will investigate whether or not the two Taiwanese firms are in violation of the US Tariff Act of 1930 by either importing the disputed products into the US, selling them for subsequent importation into the US, or selling them directly into the US market.

If it finds in favor of Lumileds, the Washington, DC, body, which describes itself as an independent Federal agency, could stop US imports of Epistar and UEC products seen as violating the rules.

Last year, the USITC found in favor of the Malaysian LED supplier Dominant Semiconductors in a similar case brought by the German company Osram Opto Semiconductors. That decision allowed Dominant to compete with Osram in the US market for white LEDs.

Lumileds, UEC and Epistar have a history of patent litigation, and in previous instances those lawsuits have been settled relatively amicably. However, in this case Lumileds says that it has no intention of licensing the technology in question to either UEC or Epistar.

The Californian company, now wholly-owned by Philips following Agilent Technologies’ recent exit from the semiconductor business, added that there are no previous licenses in effect with either UEC or Epistar that cover the technologies detailed in the three disputed US patents.

Lumileds has also taken its complaint to a district court in northern California, where it is looking for substantial damages for willful infringement by the Taiwanese companies.

Mike Hatcher is the editor of Compound Semiconductor magazine.