October 4, 2012

Your Next LED Light May Be from Litepanels (Whether You Like It or Not)

Right around this time last year, we reported about LED film/video panel maker Litepanels and their attempt to monopolize the market in the United States. The patent complaint they filed sought to stop the import and sale of any LED light designed for film/video work. This case has wide-ranging consequences, and it seems that the judge in the case now has a preliminary recommendation.

Thanks to Cinescopophilia for keeping up on this, here's the situation:

US Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Theodore R. Essex issued an initial determination finding in favour of Litepanels in that on going case involving patents for LED photographic lighting devices and components. The real surprise from ALJ Theodore R. Essex was the recommendation of a general exclusion order which would stop the importation into America of all devices that infringe upon 7,972,022; 7,318,652; and 6,948,823Litepanels patents...The recommended general exclusion order suggests stopping the importation of all LED photographic lighting devices and components that breach Litepanels patents instead of just LED lighting devices and components manufactured by the respondents...The final ruling from the Litepanels 337 Complaint LED Patent Case is expected to be in January 2013.

That's the simplified version, but what it means is that there are more devices that could be infringing on the patent than just the companies and products that Litepanels listed in their case. This could mean that any LED device, regardless of its intended purpose, could actually be prevented from being sold and/or imported into the United States. Even if Litepanels does have a case, this is just another example of the sad state of patent law in the U.S. That's not to say it's better everywhere else in the world, but the original intent of patent law was not to stifle innovation and competition.

So you might be asking if there is anything you can do? In fact, a website has been set up to make it easy for you to submit a formal complaint to the United States International Trade Commission on this case. In addition, they have started a petition that can also be signed here. This is what you need to do if you'd like the website to handle your complaint:

  1. Download this document and save it to you desktop:  ITC Response Form
  2. Answer the questions as they pertain to you.  You may write as much or as little as you like, but please do not exceed more than 5 pages.
  3. Once you have completed the questionnaire please indicate your intent by adding your name at the bottom where it says: “Your Name Here”.
  4. Once completed, save the file and attach it to an email and send it to: LED@patentfreeLED.com
  5. If you would like to see an example, go to this page on our website at: http://patentfreeled.com/sample-response/

While I don't claim to be an expert on the matter, there is no question that the patent is very general and that this ruling would monopolize the industry. I don't have a dog in the fight (I don't own any LED panels and don't plan on manufacturing any), but the loser in this situation is the consumer and the low budget filmmaker who can no longer legally purchase alternatives.

Let us know what you think about the case in the comments. You can find the full legal documentation as well as the information about submitting a formal complaint using the links below. We also would encourage anyone familiar with the matter to weigh in and provide any possible insights.

Links:

[via Cinescopophilia]

Your Comment

24 Comments

So a product like the Bescor LED-500K would no longer be sold US? I was actually looking into buying the 2 light kit. Better make it sooner rather than later, lol. Anybody have any experience with these lights?

October 4, 2012

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Ian

The patent system needs an overhaul big time. I refuse to buy or even rent anything from Litepanels because of this.

October 4, 2012

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Patent & copyright.

October 4, 2012

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moebius22

looks like zacutos plasma option is getting more interesting everyday

October 4, 2012

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Plus really, their lights are kinda harsh, to my eyes.

October 4, 2012

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Yes these are the lights of last resort, used on low-budget productions out in the woods or somewhere where there's no power source and no budget for a generator. I think litepanels may just kill off the category this way...better to keep the category alive and be the best at it rather than become this tyrannical oddball that charges a fortune.

October 4, 2012

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Peter

Wow, their patent is insanely broad. I have no idea how that got approved in the first place. I might as well file a patent for a led light source that illuminates bathrooms. Some of the considerations that are supposed to be applied is if the invention is obvious AND has been attempted by others and failed. My understanding is that LED lights were once cost-prohibitive, and once they went down in price, it should have become an obvious possibility. I really hope the defense argues to invalidate or redefine the patent because this is blatent abuse of patent laws and does no good for the consumer. If Litepanel wins I URGE everyone to boycott them. I never liked LED lights anyways...

October 4, 2012

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Ryan

I have quite a bit of experience with patents in another industry. I really don't see these holding much water in court. There are like 25 different patents for a LED flashlight, yes the same circuit is included in that. Also included is multiple LED systems.

The wording of their claims are broad enough that it would cover flashlights and LED signs and TV's but its not going to. They may be able to defend their products with something specific but they don't have claim to putting a light on a stand or multiple LED's in a light source. They sure can't cover "Other" light emitting elements in a panel array since they were not around 40 years ago when the technology already existed in the damn Litebrite toy I had as a kid. I really don't think it would take much research to provide information that LED technology existed in a panel array long before the patent applications and they can't patent the use of LED's for lighting video or photography any more than anyone can patent the same use of fire light.

They may be able to attempt to influence other manufactures but if they went up against someone with good patent insurance and nothing specific, just trying to deny the technology, they could end up on the road of getting the patents nullified very easy. That in turn would set them up for the worst legal position of their lives. Patents get nullified all the time but of course telling someone theirs is in jeopardy of that is just like telling them their baby is ugly, so they fight tooth and claw till the gavel falls.

October 4, 2012

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WSanford

This would be an utter shame. I honestly can't stand when companies try to create broad patents and claim Monopolies. Litepanels products are far behind in terms of build quality and price than their competition. Their energy would be better suited to creating better value propositions and products.

October 4, 2012

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I am posting this on my site tonite instead of what I had been planning.

I have 4 LED lights, 2 1X1's and 2 small 126LED units. I use them all the time now. They work very well for certain uses. They are not ghetto lights or just for people just starting out. we are using them on national network broadcasts every day next to my HMI's / Flo's. in reality its tungsten I hardly ever use anymore. When flo lights came out, people diss'd them... 10 or 15 years later, now its LED's. they are not going away... but maybe litepanels will be when they loose this insane chase for cash. BTW, they are owned by the VITEC group who now owns many of the smaller production gear co's.. .in fact just about all of them.

October 5, 2012

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I agree - its tungsten that I very rarely use anymore. Kino (and copyists - please don't let them get any ideas) HMIs and LEDs for eye light, general fill. Unless I'm shooting very high speed, or need to light deep bg, no real use for tungsten. I don't miss them.

October 5, 2012

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marklondon

Vitec Group, eh? Perhaps it's time to broaden the boycott to all their brands so they might get the message: Lite Panels, Vinten, Sachtler, O'Connor, Anton Bauer, Petrol, Kata, Manfrotto, Gitzo, and Bogen. There are a few others listed at their website as well: http://www.vitecgroup.com/OurBusinesses.aspx

Nothing like a shady move like this to bring attention to the fact that the classic brands that you once may have trusted and respected are now just fronts for some giant, greedy corporation.

Some alternatives: any other LED light brand, Libec, Miller, and other tripods, Portabrace and other bags, any other battery brand.

October 5, 2012

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Shenan

Thanks for the list. Funnily enough, I just opted for a Lowepro bag instead of a Kata because I didn't like the design philosophy behind the new PL line (little upgrades that should have just been a product revision turned into an über expensive new line of products). Now that I know that they're owned by a greedy parent company it makes sense. Will now go for an alternative for my new tripod to Manfrotto, purely out of principle.

October 11, 2012

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Twitchy

Or let them know what you think via their facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/litepanels?ref=ts&fref=ts

;-)

October 5, 2012

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Paul

Thank you for posting this and raising awareness in the community. This kind of corporate greed will only stifle innovation. Litepanels, Apple, and any other company that wants it all to themselves and aggressively seeks it need to be taken to task. Ultimately, it's up to the courts to decide but public backlash is certainly a powerful motivator.

October 5, 2012

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Yep. Makes me glad I'm in Australia. Terrible.

October 5, 2012

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Lliam

Im in Trinidad (Caribbean) and i usually buy my stuff through the US, guess ill have to purchase via canada now. Screw you Litepanels

a Sola 6 which is = 350W HMI cost roughly 2600US and its only 5600K temp.

an Arri L7-C which is = 750W HMI costs 2700-2800 and gives 2700K-10000k temp or any colour on the spectrum.

Why u are overpriced like this is beyond me and now the travesty of this patent suit. Litepanels does not own LED and never will

October 5, 2012

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Nigel

I want to know whether the online shopping is ban by LitePanels ?

October 5, 2012

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Take a look at the Rotolight ANOVA Flood. AMAZING! it smashes lite panels out of the park. I understand there's even one very large dealer in the U.S who have dropped lite panels completely and replaced with the ANOVA. bi - color, 1000W, wifi control via iphone!! and it's cheaper than lite panels. no contest as far as im concerned. I've got two of them, more on the way soon

October 6, 2012

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james

Here is the link to the Litepanels response: www.litepanels.com/ip

October 8, 2012

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Ryan

If you guy haven’t see this yet , here it is, Sign the petition and stop Lightpanel form gaining the monopoly I for one will never buy/rent a light panel again.

http://patentfreeled.com/sign-the-petition/

October 12, 2012

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Garth

I can kind of understand Litepanels in their effort to protect themselves against knock-offs. I was at IBC in Amsterdam a few weeks ago and the halls were filled with Chinese LED-lights of all kinds, shapes and colors - and I guess at least 90% of these used panel designs they copied from some big manufacturer like Litepanels, Dedo Lights, Kinoflo etc.

However, Litepanels going the "Apple-way" and claiming they are the only ones being allowed to sell LED lights at all, that is a bit crazy, and I hope this doesn't go through. You cannot patent a general idea. How would you feel if Daimler-Chrysler said they were the first to build a motorized car in 1900, so they have a broad patent on that - you can only buy Mercedes and Chrysler from now on, all other cars get prohibited. It is just wrong!

October 12, 2012

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Heiko

easyway ... i buy my preassembled leds panels, very very bright of 48 or 96 microleds , in small panels for 3$ each .. in china , they come directly to my letterbox with free shipping to ecuador . \
and i assemble them to make whay i need iun velcro mounted different sizes ... bingo cheap pro , *i do comercdials Ads and features films like DP ....

and F*U*C* the patents ....

October 12, 2012

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Shop now or pay $2k later!

BTW I'm filing a patent on kitchen lights. Yep. So if you're fixing food anywhere… you have to use MY lights!!!

October 16, 2012

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Erik Stenbakken