LED business news: Osram and Sharp; Zumtobel exec and business changes

Osram and Sharp have cross-licensed LED and laser-diode patents, while Zumtobel appoints a new CEO and its Tridonic business completes the sale of its magnetic ballast plant in Australia.

Osram GmbK based in Munich, Germany, and Sharp Corp based in Osaka, Japan have entered into a patent cross-licensing agreement that covers LEDs and laser diodes. Zumtobel has appointed former Infineon CEO Ulrich Schumacher as the new CEO that will lead Zumtobel through the solid-state lighting (SSL) transition. Meanwhile, Zumtobel's Tridonic business continues along that transition in focus path.

IP agreement

In the agreement between Osram and Sharp, each will get access to the other's intellectual property (IP) that is registered with patent authorities around the globe. The scope includes "inventions related to LEDs and laser diodes." The companies jointly said that cooperation could help accelerate further advancements both at the R&D level and in commercially available LEDs and laser diodes, and in related products such as SSL systems.

Osram explicitly explained that the agreement includes IP ranging from the chip to the system level including SSL modules and luminaires. The company has been very active in cross-licensing agreements striking deals with Nichia, Philips, Cree, Toyoda Gosei, Samsung, and LG previously. In addition to accelerating development, Osram noted such agreements also guard against inadvertent improper use of IP belonging to others.

The companies made no announcement of any financial terms related to the agreement. Sharp did highlight some of its achievements in the space including the 100W-class chip-on-board (COB) LEDs announced earlier this year. The company also noted a red laser diode that can be used as a light source for display applications.

Zumtobel executives

At Zumtobel, the company continues to struggle through a transition to an SSL focus. And disagreements on direction between company executives and the board of directors apparently led to the resignations of former CEO Harald Sommerer and CFO Mathias Dähn that will be effective September 30, 2013. Ulrich Schumacher will take over as CEO on October 1 and the company has commissioned a search for a new CFO.

"In Ulrich Schumacher we have been able to recruit a proven technology expert with a track record of remarkable entrepreneurial successes," said Jürg Zumtobel, chairman of Zumtobel AG. "Under his leadership Zumtobel AG will be able to concentrate once again on its long-standing success factors — a strong technology focus on the one hand and ground-breaking expertise in aesthetic design and architecture on the other hand. Particularly in the important phase of the technology shift to LEDs and electronics, new opportunities are opening up for artificial lighting in terms of both functionalities and design. We must now systematically make use of these opportunities to build on our market position."

Schumacher was CEO of Infineon during its early days as an independent semiconductor after the spinout from Siemens. More recently he has worked in private equity and served on the boards of numerous companies.

"For decades now the Zumtobel Group has been a world-leading high-tech company in the future-oriented lighting market segment," said Schumacher. "I am really looking forward to joining with the workforce and the supervisory board to shape the future of this company from now on. I am honored that the supervisory board has entrusted me with this task."

Tridonic transition

Tridonic is one of the Zumtobel businesses that is in the midst of the SSL transition. The company is a component and subassembly focused business and offers LED light engines and drivers along with legacy lighting products. In June Tridonic announced plans to exit the legacy segments and focus on LED lighting.

Tridonic has now announced that is has sold its magnetic ballast plant in Melbourne, Australia to Custom Mould Plastic Pty Ltd. Custom Mould Plastics will hire 35 of the Tridonic employees and has acquired the site and factory building.

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