September 4, 2011

Litepanels Tries to Monopolize LED Lighting, Blocking Other Brands?

Litepanels, a well-known manufacturer of LED lighting solutions, is apparently trying to block the import and sale in the United States of other LED film/video lighting products based on a complaint filed with the United States International Trade Commission. This would represent a threat to the prices and availability of LED lights, which I'm a fan of for their low energy draw and cool temperatures. I'm not well-versed in patent law, legal complaints, or anything legal for that matter, but at NextWaveDV Tony Reale has posted the following video:

Here's the complaint [PDF] filed by Litepanels. As Tony notes in the video, he's looking to get into the lighting game so he has a particular interest in this matter. Regardless, it seems like the idea of using LED lights for film and video is not such a specific idea that the concept should be patentable. LEDs are a kind of light bulb; it follows that they would be used in a variety of lighting applications (including film and video). Patent wars are getting out of control these days, with Google, Microsoft, and Apple duking it out in the courts and through the press. That said, companies should have the right to protect their intellectual property -- but it seems Litepanels is swinging pretty broadly here. See the link below for more links and commentary. As I said, I'm not a legal expert -- any thoughts on this matter?

Link: Litepanels is trying to block the import and sale of LED photo and video lighting in the US - NextWaveDV

Your Comment

29 Comments

This has all gone too far, "Lighting something with an LED for film." The technology on how its designed and laid out - Litepanel might have some ground, if they owned the technology for LEDs - again, fair ground, but this is just ridiculous.

The problem with this one, compared to Apple vs Samsung, Apple vs MS, Apple vs Google (Is anyone else seeing a trend?), is that Litepanels is a large company, battling against a lot of smaller companies who would not be able to fight.

I hope this gets chucked out quickly, so Litepanel can go back to doing what they do well, other manufactures can continue producing and importing, and everyone can get on and develop better products. Maybe I'm asking for too much.

September 4, 2011

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Tyler F

The problem is, it has not been chucked out ... Every ne keeps saying it will never happen but it keeps going. No one has ruled on the patents and they still stand. If the ITC rule in their favor they can stop the importation of any and All LED lights they (litepanels) choose. Every one will have to wait for the patent to be over turned which can take years. .... We still have a chance to voice our concerns to the itc untill Oct 12 here http://patentfreeled.com/

October 1, 2012

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Michael

Lame on Litepanels part. They make overpriced equipment and have no desire to produce lighting for the mass market at reasonable prices. Considering that cars, homes, boats, planes are all using LED lighting are they going to block the sale of those products as well? No, but it's all the same, little LED diodes. Litepanels can't prevent products from using LEDs, just silly to think they can.

The interesting thing when comparing Apple and other companies, is that Apple for the most part sells reasonably priced high quality consumer products. A loaded iMac is one heckuva machine that can run a business, can be used edit a hollywood movie, or be a home computer. Litepanels just do pretty much a one trick pony show for so much more money. Certainly economy of scale is a factor here, but Cool Lights makes a ton of products, sells a ton of products simply because they are priced at a reasonable amount. There are still plenty of cheap Chinese LED crap out there, but there are plenty of cheap crappy buyers as well, so when there is demand for lower cost products, I can't understand why Litepanels would cry foul, they have no desire to cater to the mass market demand.

September 4, 2011

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JS

@JS Litepanels actually hand pick the LED diodes they use from the highest quality bins - so it isn't really a case that one LED diode is the same as another - in fact they are quite different.

September 8, 2011

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Samuel

Note to self: don't buy anything from Litepanels.

September 4, 2011

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Nathan

RIGHT !!! Buying NO MORE Litepanels products. Period.

September 10, 2011

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Angelo Sande

Ditto Nathan. No way I'm supporting a company that works like this.

September 4, 2011

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David

LitePanels? What.... I thought they stole their idea from Ikan, and Fancier, and Cowboy Studios, and every other AFFORDABLE LED LIGHTING OPTIONS THERE ARE OUT THERE.

September 4, 2011

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it is silly, it won't work (hopefully), and it will only generate backlash against litepanels

September 5, 2011

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What if they just don't call it LED light for film or video?

September 5, 2011

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Mark

If Litepanels feel that someone else is infringing their patents I think they have every right to take action and have their day in court. If they are trying to make exaggerated claims that extend beyond the scope of their patent then they should also have their day in court and the law will decide who is being reasonable or not.

Personally, I question the motives of anyone trying to claim that this is some kind of aggressive move by a big corporate organisation to crush the 'little guys'. I might be wrong, but isn't Litepanels only a handful of ex-gaffers and technicians? I don't think it's that big a company. Feels like there's a bit of mischief making going on here. Tony's making a lot of noise about this so where are the products he has been working on? Why are they not out in the market? Stop whining and start competing, I say...

September 5, 2011

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Stefan Peyre

I think that's what we're trying to figure out -- are they trying to block the sale of ALL film/video light fixtures that use LEDs, or is it a more narrow interpretation wherein they're patenting a certain grid pattern, kind of LED, power supply, etc. Giving it a glance I didn't see anything specific, but I haven't looked at it in-depth... A bit busy right now trying to make a feature film!

September 5, 2011

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avatar
Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Just set aside a BIG chunk of your budget to buy...Litepanels.

September 8, 2011

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Skeptikal

This is kinda dumb. The PTO should never have granted the patent in the first place. But either way, the whole case can easily be thrown out with a simple Google search, limiting results before 2005 - the year of LitePanels' first patent application. Well here: http://www.electronicspoint.com/led-lights-filmmaking-t5689.html That took about 10 minutes to find. On these grounds, the patent should get thrown out for a lack of "novelty." Here's the PTO's description of novelty: http://www.uspto.gov/patents/resources/general_info_concerning_patents.j...

September 5, 2011

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Mark

Bad form Litepanels. You better change the company name cuz you're getting nothing but bad PR from this move.

Even if they win, good luck enforcing it. Competitors will just be marketed as "5600K work lights" that happen to have a 1/4 20 threaded mount :p

September 5, 2011

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Mike

Litepanels was purchased years ago by Vitec (http://www.vitecgroup.com/) they are a huge (and very successful) publicly traded multi-national corporation that also owns Bogen-Manfrotto, Sachtler, Vinten, Petrol, Anton Bauer and several other companies.

They are trying this because they can afford to, and it's true they are getting ripped off. However, they did move all their manufacturing to China. Which seems to be a problem for a lot of companies.

September 6, 2011

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A.Yater

I don't think that's true - I think all Litepanels products are made here in the USA. I don't know about any of the other Vitec brands, tho.

September 6, 2011

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Stefan Peyre

Certainly, the 1x's from litepanels are manufactured in the USA.

September 9, 2011

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dj8al

I don't quite understand Litepanels's reason. The people who buy the cheaper imports(the smaller indi guys) are highly unlikely to spend the extreme amount of money on the Litepanels version. If they know their product is better, then they should be able to sell that idea to the public. Lower your prices & compete. I'm not sure, but I don't think Litepanels invented led technology.

September 6, 2011

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they claim that they invented the use of LED lights in cinema

the fact that *THAT* can be patented is the actual problem

September 6, 2011

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Agreed - any patent lawyer worth his salt will try to get his client the broadest possible protection. If the patent office are happy to grant this, it's the system that's at fault.

September 6, 2011

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Stefan Peyre

Dang Stefan - you're defending Litepanels with so much tenacity. You say compete it out, well how are other people suppose to compete with this lawsuit being put forward by litepanels. Fact - they didn't make LED technology. So with that same argument, should Thomas Edison (and his kin) sue Ikea and GE etc. for using his idea (light bulbs) to light homes and offices? Riddle me that, or should we wait for lawyers to "sort this out" as well? Come on now...

September 8, 2011

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Chris

This is VERY important information... it must get to the industry via trade magazines, banners and blog sites, vimeo, etc. It has to go viral to have any meaningful influence...

Someone please send this link to their dealers as I'm sure they would not want only one choice for lighting.

Also, did someone say they are going to start a central organizational focal point for this cause, like a Facebook page or Twitter feed?

Also, from what I've seen their products are coming over in container ships from China.

September 7, 2011

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Mitch Davis

Totally shameless. I was only yesterday reading how fellow Aussie Jim Frazier ("Frazier Lens") got screwed by the US patent court in 2003 so that a US competitor/parasite to get the advantage. I urge you to read about that nonsense...the scary thing is that Frazier lost. Don't underestimate what contortions the US legal system is capable of.

So this is how the USA intends to revive it's manufacturing economy? Legal smoke and mirrors ...and B.S...instead of internationally competitive value for money production and marketing

The sooner these mongrels go bankrupt the better.

September 8, 2011

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Skeptikal

We have purchased several litpanel on camera lights and they have all failed. Litepanel lights truly put the uck in suck...

September 9, 2011

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krazybobby

No led is capable of reproducing the broad spectrum light of the sun or a tungsten lamp. Some are closer that others. I worked for an ESPN shooter who bagged his led lights in favor of Kinos, and even those are not full spectrum, even with filters.

June 3, 2012

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Larry Vaughn

Boo, Litepanels. Really? FYI, you can patent a configuration, a design, or a formula. Far as I know (and I've filed for patent before) you cannot patent a concept. What about using firelight as a light source, if I'm the first one to file for that, can I patent it? Paleeeese.

They're lawyered up and have lots of corporate muscle, and they're going for it because of the stupidly high markup "their idea" has.

June 7, 2012

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Erik Stenbakken

Why don't the bastards take out a patent on Greed and US Corporate Rapaciousness...

October 4, 2012

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Outrage

Looks like there is a lot more to this story. It appears that they are just trying to block cheap Chinese copies that are being rebadged in the US.

Litepanels responds: www.litepanels.com/ip

October 8, 2012

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Ryan