Although Nichia is an LED manufacturer, the company has targeted lighting manufacturer Feit, major US retailer Lowes, and distributors in legal actions seeking damages based on SSL products sold with integrated LEDs that infringe a long-standing patent.
Nichia has filed three separate patent-infringement suits in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas seeking damages from organizations that sell LED-based lighting products that presumably integrate LEDs that infringe Nichia's US Patent No. 8,530,250 (the 250 patent). The legal actions target lighting manufacturer Feit Electric Company; US home improvement retailer Lowes and distributor L G Sourcing that supplies Lowes; and distributor Mary Elle Fashions (Meridian Electric).
Nichia has staunchly defended the 250 patent in the past, but this action is different in that a manufacturer, a retailer, and distributors were targeted. Each of those targets could very well be direct or indirect customers for Nichia LEDs and indeed might even have Nichia-based solid-state lighting (SSL) products in their current supply chain.
Nichia did not detail the infringement, but almost certainly it is based on Nichia's belief that the lighting products identified are based on LEDs that infringe the 250 patent. In each case, Nichia said it would seek an injunction against one or more products and damages based on past infringement via lighting products sold by the suit targets.
Everlight Electronics has been the most frequent target of Nichia intellectual property (IP) actions in the past, especially related to the 250 patent. Back in February, Nichia said it had won a Texas court decision against Everlight that was the result of a suit first filed in 2013. But Everlight has fired back repeatedly. In the spring of 2015, Everlight said US and German courts had ruled in its favor against Nichia relative to other patents.
In the latest action, Nichia identified specific infringing products. In the case of Feit, Nichia targeted the BPOM60/830/LED lamp that is an omnidirectional A-lamp — an 800-lm replacement for a 60W incandescent lamp. In the case of Lowes, the suit targets the Utilitech Pro 24-in. strip light that is an alternative to a linear fluorescent fixture. And in the case of Meridian, Nichia targeted a decorative night light and a replacement for a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL).
A number of Nichia patents that it has wielded in a powerful fashion in the past decade will expire next year. But the 250 patent was only issued in 2013. The 250 patent is focused squarely on a low-cost LED manufacturing methodology for mid-power LEDs in which a leadframe is sandwiched in a molding die with adhesive resin then injected to form the body of the LED package.
Feit, meanwhile, remains in a protracted IP battle with Cree. In early 2015, Cree filed against Feit and Feit supplier Unity Opto Technology, claiming Feit products infringed ten patents. Subsequently Feit counter-sued Cree in mid-2015. Then just last month Cree added two new infringement allegations to its Feit suit.