LED business news: Lunera, MaxLite, Satco, Topaz, Nichia, and Feit IP battles

May 12, 2015
Patent-infringement actions have come fast and furious of late in the packaged LED space and in SSL end products, and LightFair seemed to spur further activity.

Patent-infringement actions have come fast and furious of late in the packaged LED space and in SSL end products, and LightFair seemed to spur further activity.

Intellectual property (IP) skirmishes are nothing new in the LED and solid-state lighting (SSL) sectors, but a flurry of recent activity has prompted us to offer a roundup of the latest news. Indeed, some new LED and SSL IP actions and responses were instigated coincident to LightFair International (LFI), and LFI afforded us the opportunity to ask some executives about the latest claims and counter-claims. Below we have news relative to Lunera Lighting, MaxLite, Satco Products, Topaz Lighting, Nichia, Everlight Electronics, Feit Electric, and Cree IP battles.

Ballast-compatible retrofit lamps

Of late, Lunera has staked a good bit of its future success on ballast-compatible, LED replacement lamps for legacy-lamp sockets, including the Lucy product designed to replace 4-pin compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Lunera refers to the product as plug-and-play lamps because specifiers can simply remove the older bulb and insert the LED-based product.

Just prior to LFI, Lunera announced that it had filed suit in the Southern District of New York against Eiko Global, Keystone Technologies, MaxLite, Premium Quality Lighting, Revolution Lighting Technologies, Satco Products, and Topaz Lighting for selling "knock-off" versions of the CFL-replacement products.

"It has come to our attention that multiple companies have blatantly copied our Helen Lamp product," said Doug Schendt, Lunera CEO. "Lunera pioneered the category of ballast-driven CFL retrofit lamps — we will vigorously defend our intellectual property against infringement."

At LFI, MaxLite, Satco, and Topaz took the unusual step of jointly refuting the Lunera claims. The companies said that "the lawsuit appears baseless. Moreover, Lunera had asserted that some of the targeted lamps were being marketed as UL compliant when in fact no such rating was in effect and further said that UL is investigating the presumably false claims. But MaxLite specifically has stated that its product is properly UL listed.”

At LFI, Lunera announced additional ballast-compatible lamps. The new Lucy family is designed for plug-and-play replacement of high-pressure-sodium (HPS) lamps.

Feit and Cree

Meanwhile, a few months back, Cree had attacked Feit Electric for patent infringement and for improperly marketing some LED lamps as Energy Star compliant. Cree subsequently said the International Trade Commission (ITC) had agreed to open a claim to investigate what Cree said was improper product labeling and the Cree request that such products be banned from sale in the US.

At LFI, we asked Feit director of technology and corporate counsel Brian Wilcox about the situation and Cree's action. Wilcox said that as of now the Cree claims have had no impact on Feit's business. Moreover, Wilcox said the company doesn't understand the basis or validity of the Cree patent action in US Court.

Nichia and Everlight

We also recently reported on Everlight's claims of a win against Nichia in US and German courts relative to phosphor-converted LEDs. Subsequently, Nichia has admitted the key defeats, although the company said it will pursue appeals and is hopeful that it can overturn the recent setbacks. Still, the rulings will have to hurt Nichia in the market.

Nichia did point out separately that the US Court of Appeals had issued a final ruling against Everlight and Emcore on actions that those companies took against Nichia. That action was based on the Emcore 6,653,215 patent.

Nichia also issued a statement saying that the US District Court for the Northern District of California has issued a ruling in favor of Nichia against Bluestone Innovation. Bluestone is patent licensing and enforcement company — the type of organization sometimes referred to as a patent troll or a non-practicing entity (NPE). Bluestone had attempted to enforce US patent 6,163,557 that Bluestone originally acquired from Xerox Corp that was focused on traditional epitaxial-layer-up LED architectures.

About the Author

Maury Wright | Editor in Chief

Maury Wright is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade. Wright first wrote for LEDs Magazine as a contractor in 2010, and took over as Editor-in-Chief in 2012. He has broad experience in technology areas ranging from microprocessors to digital media to wireless networks that he gained over 30 years in the trade press. Wright has experience running global editorial operations, such as during his tenure as worldwide editorial director of EDN Magazine, and has been instrumental in launching publication websites going back to the earliest days of the Internet. Wright has won numerous industry awards, including multiple ASBPE national awards for B2B journalism excellence, and has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards. He received a BS in electrical engineering from Auburn University.