Letter to the Editor: Color Kinetics responds to Carpenter article

Fritz Morgan, CTO of Color Kinetics, has written to LEDs Magazine to comment on our article about a patent awarded to Carpenter Decorating, relating to the control of LED lighting systems.

[This letter is published as received, without editing. We always welcome comments on any of the articles published on our website or in our magazine.]

Date: November 22, 2006
From: Fritz Morgan, Chief Technology Officer, Color Kinetics Inc
To: The Editor, LEDs Magazine

We at Color Kinetics feel that your recent article about U.S. Patent No. 7,015,825 awarded to Carpenter Decorating ("Carpenter Patent Reveals New LED Control Technology", October 16, 2006), contains a few inaccuracies about the coverage of this patent and its relevance to our patented technologies.

We would appreciate an opportunity to correct some of these inaccuracies for the benefit of your readers. Please note that, recognizing the value of innovation, we generally do not like to comment on patents by others. We feel compelled, however, to address certain statements about the Carpenter patent made in the article in relation to our patent portfolio.

At the outset, it is important to keep in mind that a patent coverage is defined by its claims and, quite frequently, not as broad as it appears to be from a preceding description.

The Carpenter patent describes a decorative lighting network of LED lights, responsive to the data signal, clock signal, and power signal from a central controller. In some implementations, this network employs a conventional I2C bus topology for communication between the central controller and individual LED device drivers.

In our opinion, however, Carpenter did not patent "a fundamentally new and different LED lighting control method." Rather, the claims of its patent appear to cover a number of specific designs for such a network.

Further, we do not believe that this technology is “a completely new approach to controlling LED lighting fixtures” themselves, as your article appears to conclude. For example, the Carpenter patent explicitly relies on PWM technique to control the LEDs within each fixture in order to generate desired lighting effects.

Thus, a host of Color Kinetics’ patented technologies, which merge intelligence - such as microprocessor control and network addressing - with LEDs to create intelligent solid-state lighting devices, remain relevant to the LED lighting community. In particular, anyone developing LED-based illumination products covered by the Carpenter patent would likely need a license from Color Kinetics.

It is worth reminding your readers that, as an industry pioneer, Color Kinetics continues to invest the time, resources, and dollars developing – and seeking patent protection for – new indoor and outdoor fixtures for architectural and consumer markets, new networking and addressing protocols, new white light control solutions, new thermal and power management systems, new authoring and control software, new LED lighting and media applications, custom ASICs, and a variety of other technologies.

The knowledge and expertise, derived from our multi-million dollar R&D program, are openly available to the industry through fair and reasonable OEM and licensing agreements. As your article recognized, more and more companies, seeking to enhance their product lines, take advantage of our technologies through such agreements. These companies may also benefit from access to patented technologies developed by others, supplementing the core technologies licensed from Color Kinetics.

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If you have an comments on this or any other LEDs Magazine article, please contact Tim Whitaker.

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