LED business news: Nichia, Everlight, Cree, Osram, Connected Lighting

Dec. 4, 2013
Nichia and Everlight continue to scrap over intellectual property with the former taking new action, while Cree and Osram make executive appointments and The Connected Lighting Alliance will study commercial indoor SSL.

Nichia has announced new filings with the US District Court in its ongoing LED-centric patent dispute with Everlight Electronics. Cree and Osram have both made changes to their board of directors, and Cree promoted Norbert Hiller and launched a new LED lamp. The Connected Lighting Alliance, comprising some of the industry's top lighting companies, has announced plans to study the controls situation in the indoor commercial solid-state lighting (SSL) sector.

Nichia and Everlight

Nichia and Everlight have waged an extended intellectual property (IP) battle with Nichia generally claiming Everlight has infringed the former's patents, and Everlight attacking the validity of Nichia's patents. In the latest amended complaint filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Nichia asserts that Everlight, subsidiaries Everlight Americas and Zenaro Lighting, and Zenaro distributor Zitroz LLC are infringing four Nichia patents.

The latest action amends a September 11, 2013 filing centered on one specific Nichia US patent — 7,432,589 — and extends the claim to cover patents 7,462,870, 7,521,863, and 8,530,250. The lawsuit (2:13-cv-703) is pending before District Judge J. Rodney Gilstrap and Magistrate Judge Roy M. Payne.

As Nichia acknowledged in its most recent press announcement, the companies have active legal disputes ongoing in several other countries including Japan and Germany. In September, Nichia announced that a German court ruled in its favor in an infringement case. There has still been no word on damages in that action and apparently Everlight is still seeking to have the German court nullify the patent in question.

Everlight has also attacked the validity of a Nichia patent in the US this past March, and prior to that had filed its own patent infringement lawsuit against Nichia.

Cree lamp and exec moves

Moving to some product news and executive reshuffling, Cree has added a 75W-equivalent Soft White LED lamp to its A-lamp family. Apparently the design is near identical to the 60W product in terms of the LEDs used, although the drive current has been increased to enable 1100-lm output. The main change in the design is a noticeably bulkier and heavier heat sink to keep the LEDs cool at the elevated current. We have a detailed article on the A-19 SSL retrofit lamp over on our Illumination in Focus website.

Cree also has appointed Norbert Hiller to the position of executive vice president lighting. Hiller has served in a similar role in the company's LED operation for more than two years. Apparently the move was driven by Cree's increasing presence in the lighting space as witnessed by the lamp announcement.

"The growth in our LED fixture business combined with the success of the Cree LED bulb has expanded the scale of our lighting business and increased the focus on sales and marketing," said Cree chairman and CEO Chuck Swoboda. "Norbert brings a unique skill set and track record of success to the next phase of Cree's growth."

Cree also announced that Anne Whitaker has been appointed to the company's Board of Directors. Whitaker is president of Sanofi's North American Pharmaceuticals operation. Swoboda said, "Anne has proven herself to be a leader throughout her career and her extensive experience in strategic management and organizational development will be a tremendous asset to our company as we continue to carry out our mission to accelerate the adoption of LED lighting."

Osram executive announcement

Osram is also making changes to its Supervisory Board. Peter Bauer is the new chairman for both Osram Licht AG and Osram GmbH. Bauer had previously been a member of both boards and succeeds Siegfried Russwurm as chairman.

Osram had said back in June that Russwurm would be stepping down, and Bauer is a ready replacement having served as deputy chairman in the past. Bauer had a long career with Siemens and Infineon, and currently works as a management consultant.

The Connected Lighting Alliance

Moving to something of a technology story, The Connected Lighting Alliance has announced that it has formed a study group focused on lighting networks and controls for the commercial space. Previously the industry organization has been focused on the residential sector, having endorsed ZigBee Light Link as the technology of choice.

The action in the commercial sector focused on indoor lighting could have a major business impact because of the companies behind the organization. Founders include GE Lighting, Lutron, Osram, Panasonic, Philips, and Toshiba. If the organization decides to tap a specific technology, the action will carry broad impact.

"After the endorsement of ZigBee Light Link last summer, our members have decided to raise the bar and address the complex solutions required for indoor professional lighting," said Simon den Uijl, secretary general of The Connected Lighting Alliance. "The benefit of this activity goes beyond stimulating the adoption of wireless lighting solutions and provides the lighting industry with an opportunity to interface with other industry stakeholders, such as building automation companies. We hereby invite any interested company to join the Alliance now and help shape the future of indoor professional lighting."