LED business news: ERP acquires Lumenetix, Seoul IP, Signify buys shares

Driver specialist ERP Power has bought Lumenetix to offer a complete set of tunable SSL building blocks, while Seoul is targeting IP action at a distributor of Philips TVs and Signify again buys back shares.

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ERP Power LLC has announced that it acquired Lumenetix, a manufacturer of color-tunable LED light engines and intelligent controls targeted at applications such as lighting for health and wellbeing. Seoul Semiconductor has launched a patent-infringement suit against a distributor called The Factory Depot Advantages Inc over Philips TVs and displays that use LED backlight technology which Seoul says infringes on ten patents. The company also has targeted a Megaman distributor in Europe over general lighting products. For the second time in the past year, Signify has launched a share buyback initiative indicating that it sees its shares as undervalued.

Accelerating tunable lighting

ERP has been purely a player in the LED driver industry for solid-state lighting (SSL), offering both constant-current and -voltage products, some of which also integrated controls and wired or wireless connectivity for smart lighting and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Now the company, owned by private equity firm Angeles Equity Partners, will add tunable LED lighting and controls to its portfolio via the acquisition of Lumenetix and that company’s Araya light engine technology. Combined, the companies can supply all of the enabling technology needed for a lighting manufacturer to jumpstart the development of tunable luminaires with integral connectivity and intelligence.

The target market for the duo will be tunable-white and -color lighting for applications ranging from entertainment and hospitality to lighting for health and wellbeing or human-centric lighting. “We believe the combined company is uniquely positioned to deliver a differentiated and compelling value proposition to the lighting industry,” said Timothy Meyer and Jordan Katz, managing partners of Angeles Equity Partners. “ERP and Lumenetix are well positioned to capitalize on the IoT, digital controls, and full-spectrum lighting industry trends.”

Lumenetix has long been a proponent of tunable SSL. All the way back in 2014, a company executive said at our conference The LED Show that tunable lighting would ultimately become as prevalent as dimming. Such a reality has yet to emerge, yet tunable lighting is clearly a growing trend.

Synergies

Meanwhile, both companies have pursed connected lighting technology over a number of years. ERP has drivers with integral support for standards such as DALI (digital addressable lighting interface) and Bluetooth Mesh; and also has support for some third-party controls such as those from Avi-On and Casambi — both of which are shipping enabling technology with a Bluetooth Mesh basis but with some proprietary layers for now. Earlier this year, the company announced what it claimed was the smallest DALI-2-enabled driver in the industry.

Lumenetix supports controls via small connectivity modules that can be customized with tiny expansion cards. The company supports standards including DMX, DALI, and Bluetooth Mesh. And the company has developed specific versions that work with control products from Lutron, Legrand, Acuity, and more. Furthermore, Lumenetix has its own commissioning technology and significant protocol software expertise.

Coincident with the transaction, the ERP board of directors will add two new members. Doug Herst, founder of Lumenetix, will join the board. Also Jed Dorsheimer, a regular speaker at our Strategies in Light events, will join the board. Dorsheimer is managing director and senior analyst at Canaccord Genuity and also did a stint as an executive for Acuity Brands.

Seoul IP suits

Moving to the intellectual property (IP) space, Seoul Semiconductor continues with its strategy of targeting distributors of products that it believes infringe its patent portfolio. The most recent action was filed with the US District Court for the Central District of California. Seoul said the infringed patents include methods of enhancing color gamut and providing uniformity via LED backlight units.

The suit marks the second time that Seoul has targeted a seller of Philips TVs. Last year, Seoul filed suit against Fry’s Electronics for selling infringing TVs. The company has also targeted Kmart in past action seeking to stop the supply of infringing products to the market.

Earlier in June and across the Atlantic, Seoul took similar action relative to general lighting products. The action in a German court focused on distributor Leuchtstark Vertriebs GmbH for selling replacement lamps manufactured by Megaman. The actual targets in the case are LEDs manufactured by Everlight Electronics. Seoul and Everlight have long fought a back-and-forth battle in the courts for years.

Signify share buyback

In market news, Signify said it has now repurchased 133,859 shares in its latest stock buyback initiative totaling €3.3M (million), about $3.7M. The current buyback program began with an announcement on June 4 when the company said it would repurchase up to 240,000 shares valued at about €6M ($6.7M) or 0.2% of its outstanding shares.

The company initially launched a similar program in August 2018 after announcing tepid quarterly results. The company continues to see sales decline as revenue from legacy products disappears and price pressures hamper SSL products. But the company has increased profits and sees more value in its stock than does the market. Signify completed the first repurchase round last December. A page on the Signify website provides regular updates on the progress of the program.

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