Lumileds warns Epistar customers of potential infringement

July 13, 2007
US Customs will begin blocking importation of LED products from Epistar and its customer that infringe Lumileds' patents.
Lumileds appears to have been successful in its attempts to prevent rival Taiwan-based LED maker Epistar from importing and selling certain AlGaInP-based LED products in the US.

An Exclusion Order issued by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in now in full force and will prevent the sale or importation of Epistar LED products that infringe Philips Lumileds' patent rights.

For background to this story, see ITC ruling bars importation of Epistar AlGaInP LEDs (May 2007).

Lumileds is notifying chip packagers, distributors and others using Epistar's OMA, MB and GB LEDs that the ITC ruling is now in force. The exclusion order prohibits importation of Epistar's infringing LEDs as well as packaged LEDs containing the infringing LEDs and boards primarily consisting of arrays of such packaged LEDs.

Lumileds says that companies that use, import, or sell unlicensed infringing products, even unknowingly, are direct infringers of the Philips Lumileds' patents.

Also, says Lumileds, unlicensed manufacturers should not rely on indemnity agreements to excuse their infringement of Lumileds' patents. A promise by a manufacturer to "indemnify" its customer against an action by Philips Lumileds will not prevent Philips Lumileds from asserting its patents and seeking damages directly from that customer. Likewise, indemnification will have no effect on exclusion of the infringing products by Customs officials.

Immediately following Lumileds press release, Epistar announced that it has launched two new AlGaInP-based LED product lines, named Phoenix and Aquarius. Epistar president BJ Lee said "These [new] products remove entirely the feature Lumileds claim is the basis for its patent, and also provide significantly improved performance over the previous designs."

Epistar also said it will appeal the ITC decision, and is working with US Customs to try to ensure that the Exclusion Order does not apply to the Phoenix and Aquarius products.

Countering Epistar's new product announcement, Lumileds said that during the ITC investigation, Epistar was required to disclose all of its current and next generation AlInGaP LED products. Given the broad scope and critical importance of the '718 Patent to the making of a commercially viable AlInGaP LEDs, Philips Lumileds says it does not believe that Epistar will be able to suddenly devise a non-infringing alternative after having been unable to do so for the last decade or more.

Lumileds has also helpfully provided some suggestions for sourcing AlGaInP LED products, including chip packagers such as Avago, or distributors such as Lastertech, Marubeni, Promate and Future Electronics that offer AlInGaP products that are licensed under Philips Lumileds' patents.