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January 19, 2013

Litepanels Wins Patent Case, Infringing LED Panels Barred from US Without Licensing

We've been following this case now for a little while, but if you aren't familiar with it, Vitec Group, who is the parent company of Litepanels, claimed to have patents on a number of LED technologies related to film/video lighting. The US courts have now confirmed that, and in order to continue importing and selling LED panels, these companies must pay to license and continue using the infringing technology. Cinescopophilia has the full scoop on the result.

Here is their opinion on the matter:

Contrary to the substantial amount of misinformation surrounding this case, the General Exclusion Order will not affect the importation of emergency lighting, cellular phones, automobile taillights, or LED bulbs themselves. It also does not affect other forms of LED lighting used for film, video or photography such as RGB and Remote Phosphor technologies. It simply prohibits the importation into the United States of LED lighting products for film, video or photography that infringe certain claims of the Litepanels patents without the patent holder’s consent.

What does it really mean to you? Not much, and never did. What can you expect to see happen to the Respondents? Well perhaps something similar to what has been imposed on two of the companies already.

F&V and Nanguang must now seek written permission from Litepanels to import into the United States or directly sell for importation into the United States any LED photographic lighting device. If F&V or Nanguang do bring in any LED photographic lighting device subject to written approval by Litepanels they will do so paying license fees and royalties to Litepanels.

So far it seems some of the major manufacturers have already complied and will be licensing the technology, but it's unclear what will happen with the rest. The patents themselves are relatively broad, so I'm not sure what type of LEDs these companies could still make that wouldn't go against the patents that have already been filed.

According to the above information, it will be mostly business as usual, unless you were only getting your panels from overseas from one of those companies above, and they decide not to pay Litepanels to bring the LEDs into the US. Whatever you think of the case, the company does own the patents, and the courts have ruled in their favor. If you were thinking about getting into the LED film/video lighting business, it's probably going to cost a bit more than it would have previously, but the case is now settled, so we will see what happens down the road.

What do you guys think about the case? Do you think this means anything to you personally and your work or business?

Link: Litepanels Wins LED Case Everything Back To Normal -- Cinescopophilia

Your Comment

69 Comments

What a monopolistic crap! This is terrible for everyone but Litepanels. I will never buy something from them.

January 19, 2013

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mike

Fxxk

January 19, 2013

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Soosan Khanoom

Very sorry to hear this. I filed some footage and info with the group that was fighting it as I had been getting LED units from Home Depot and adapting for shooting video prior to LitePanels patent date. Litepanels has insured I will never buy anything from them - the patents they have are pretty lame as patents come and go.

I mean every DP, gaffer and videographer has always grabbed and adapted every form of lighting available for use in video and film work. It's almost as bad as someone claiming a patent on sunlight as a key light in film. LEDs existed long before Litepanels as did people using them in film and video.

January 19, 2013

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Make sure you add the rest of the Vitec group to your "never buy from" list:
http://www.vitecgroup.com/OurBusinesses.aspx
That includes sachtler, oconnor, manfrotto and gizto.
Some people said Tiffen was in the group too, but I don't see it there, or in wikipedia.

January 20, 2013

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Dude, are you for real? They are just resellers of those things. And they do not hold a "monopol" on tripods do they. But I bet they would like to. Think before you write some statements and defend a company that you do not have any benefit of.

January 20, 2013

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mike

Afraid not, Vitec does appear to own those companies.

January 20, 2013

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Luke

Well Sachtler, Miller, O'connor and Manfrotto are not all there is out there anyway :)

January 20, 2013

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mike

Yeah, I was coming here to say the same thing (boycott all Vitec brands). Vitec is indeed the parent company of all these famous video/film/photography brands. They've been buying them all up over the years.

January 20, 2013

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Shenan

I forgot to add this link as well, which is a website that had been trying to fight this litepanels patent. Perhaps they will keep up the fight and try to invalidate the patent: http://patentfreeled.com/

January 20, 2013

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Shenan

I don't fathom the full case, but it seems Litepanels has a patent on generic LEDs, or some legaleses that no other company can use generic LEDs for video use. Kinda krazy. I wonder if those sub$99 LEDs on Amazon that got decent reviews that users said are Litepanels alternatives are the alleged 'perps'. Litepanels is overpriced and over-hyped. It spawned a market for low-cost and more innovative LEDs. Litepanels doesn't make a Rotolight, they require their own throne (aka hotshoe). Thankfully I bilked a Litepanels from a former employee. Fuck Litepanels anyway. Book me Dano and sue me!

January 19, 2013

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joel billie

LP = bunch of shitbags

January 19, 2013

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ben

Whoopty for Lite Panels! The patents belong to them, then fine, they were smart enough to get them and now force almost everyone to pay them for it. This is only the equivalent nonsense that says Apple owns the patent to Rounded Corner touch screen phones. Were they the 1st with touch screen...NO, but were smart enough to patent it. (I know thats a crude example but...)
Just as smart as they were, in this "do-it-yourself" mindset industry it may hurt long term. (major productions stay far away from LED's since there isn't enough throw) They may end up like RCA that owns the patent to CD's but couldn't get folks to buy their own product. Especially now that Plasma lights seems more viable than LED.

January 19, 2013

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That's called a Monopoly! This is bullsh*t.

January 19, 2013

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This reminds me of the story of the guy that patented the "Happy Birthday" song because no one else did after years of existence.

January 19, 2013

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Raphael Wood

"The patents themselves are relatively broad"
the lovely kingdom of abstract or near abstract patents. soon people will be just patenting ideas. from intellectual property to industrial patents to even algorithm patents the system is starting to eating itself and working against the principle of competition to innovation. capitalism learning how to be closer to communism...

January 19, 2013

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guto novo

At least patents still have a limited lifespan of protection. 20 years and that's it. Look at Steadycam got copied (and started to reinvent itself) after it's patents expired... Unfortunately, this is far from the case with that other piece of intellectual property law - copyrights have gone up from 14, 28, 56 and now 100 years! Can someone please explain that? Why does Disney get to monopolize a fairy tales for so frigging long?

January 21, 2013

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Light Panels - The MAC of the video industry

January 19, 2013

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Tyler

Why do people capitalize Mac? I've never understood that.

January 19, 2013

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Grammar Nazi on your own site Koo?
There is no standard for acronyms in the english language as far as I have researched no matter what misconceptions of what is "acceptable" or correct. For e.g. LASER and Laser are both used (but AIDS is never Aids most probably not to confuse with the actual word Aid).
Likewise, FED is used for Federal (most probably to avoid confusion with the the word fed - feed) and so in my opinion usage of MAC is correct (as it avoids confusion with the word Mac i.e. A form of address for a man whose name is unknown to the speaker : Which because is not a common enough word makes the use of Mac for Apple Computers popular and considered by most of you as "Correct").
Hope it answers your question.

January 20, 2013

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Archie

Your MAC (Media Access Control) address, which uniquely identifies a network adapter or device, is actually an acronym, whereas Mac, referring to Apple computers, is actually a shortened version of Macintosh, which has never been an acronym.

Apple actually uses Mac instead of Macintosh to refer both to their software as well as some of their computers, but it is never in all caps.

January 20, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

I'm sure there are better comments to reply to on this website rather than arguing over capitalisation for a product. I've never understood that.

January 20, 2013

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MAC

Probably.

January 20, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

I rarely think of computers whenever I'm hungry for fast food...

January 21, 2013

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Well apologies if it looks my comment was not to enlighten but taunt. Just assumed some of us are really crazy for these things (especially if we are screenwriting we should be using the correct language :)
Will be consulting Hart's Rule and make a final comment if necessary, do not have the book right now. I get your point of suggested usage as Apple is using it but just wanted to say I did look into this in college for some fun project that there was in face no set standard for Acronym v Abbreviation :)

Anyways coming back to the post it is very disappointing to note if the patent is implemented the way we are inferring. Maybe it will not be for generic LED but something specific. Will wait and watch.

January 21, 2013

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Archie

MAC is the acronym for Mamiya America Corporation http://www.macgroupus.com/ 8-) The US importer of Sekonic light meter among other things.

January 20, 2013

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c.d.e,brey

They're pissed because lights like the F&V z96 and the 500, 600, and 900 LED lights available on amazon and eBay are way better and cheaper than their overpriced crap. I'm a LED fan. My kit is made up entirely of LEDs for several reasons. I'm glad I got them while I could. The U.S patent system needs an overhual. I'm hoping for plasma and remote phosphor lights come down in price. They'll replace the current LED technologies. Hopefully no one files an overly broad patent on them.

Wonder what would have happened if someone patented the shape of a bed or TV.

January 19, 2013

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I'm genuinely curious as to how something so bloody broad and general could be passed in LP's favour. America needs to have a wakeup call.

January 19, 2013

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Tyler

I'm going to develop a light founded on the technology of bundled fireflies. I will patent this idea, and then sue anyone who has fireflies hanging around their yard: To any kid who thinks he can get away with catching one in a glass jar, there will be hell to pay...

I blame the whole patent legislation. from what i understand, Monsanto has a patent on corn. fucking corn. that shit that has been growing long before government ever existed. maybe it's the modification there of (gmo).. but i'm pretty sure if you start growing corn, you may come under fire, as you might be growing "their" corn.

January 20, 2013

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love it!! Sue your brother!!

January 20, 2013

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Brad

Actually, they have patents on most different strains of corn. I have heard of a farmer that was growing his own heirloom corn, and a truck drove by and spilled some monsanto patented corn into his field and then he got sued for having their corn. If I remember correctly, he had to destroy his entire crop. America is happily going down the drains. I just want to know, will I still be able to buy those $30 Hong Kong light panels off of ebay?

January 21, 2013

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A legal victory, but commercial suicide. You can read it right here: the overwhelming response from their customers is this: to vow to never buy another Litepanels product. And that is my response too.

January 19, 2013

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TiCa

IMO, the right verdict was reached. The system works.

January 19, 2013

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sean

Pathetic. If they were more competitive and built better quality non plastic products maybe id buy but after my first and last purchase never again.

January 19, 2013

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Vladimir

Yeah this is awful, what you won't see, is much outrage from many photography blogs, since they sponsor so many of them. I posted a comment on Vincent LaForet's blog, where he glowingly reviews a new lightpannels product, I simply added to my comment that consumers should be aware of their behaviour regarding ruthlessly enforcing overly broad patents and how this will stifle competition and innovation, it was deleted instantly. I don't live in the US so hopefully there should be no problem getting the 'infringing' products here.

January 19, 2013

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Julian

Unfortunately, Australia has been learning this litigation garbage from the USA, but hopefully this crap won't be imposed on us.

January 21, 2013

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Ross

The whole issue with the patent system is that new products or technologies are almost never created from scratch. Products are developed based on previous work done by others. Which means patents only make sense if they are extremely specific.

Litepanels didn't invent LEDs. Just like Apple didn't invent touch screen interfaces. This is like Edison patenting the light bulb and then me patenting 'the use of lightbulbs in building interiors'.

Actually though (and nicely proving the point) Edison's patent was for 'the invention of an improvement in electric lamps'.

January 19, 2013

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Ant

I may need to re-read this when less tired and make sure I'm acutally making a point ...

January 19, 2013

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Ant

Guys you need to read up on the other side of the story.
I have and I completely agree with LP.

This isn't a generic LED patent, it's a very specific patent on a very specific type of LED technology that was directly ripped off LP.

Always read the other side of the argument.

January 20, 2013

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Will

Thanks for this. Words of wisdom regardring any argument, really.

January 20, 2013

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Stephen

I didn't yet read the LP-patent, but i'm wondering what they could've patented?

Just thinking aloud. Putting some led's in a grid isn't very innovative, so they couldn't have patented just that?
Then maybe the dimming of the LEDs? PWM? Been done long before LP! Look at your christmas light for example. But how to make them flicker free when running from mains? Just make the frequency higher... same thing they did with TL-tubes with electronic (instead of magnetic) ballasts.

So what did they 'invent'? Or did they just say... hey let's add 'for video/photography' and then it's a unique idea...

January 20, 2013

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Sam

I'm reading the patents, and it's clear to me now...
Based on these patents every judge should have ruled in the favor of LP.

The big problem lies in the fact that LP should have never gotten these patents... They just patented things that were not yet patented before, but they didn't invent anything...

Well, this isn't the first case where i'm wondering "how the hell do you patent that?", and it sure will not be the last...

January 20, 2013

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Sam

Exactly. The system failed because they were awarded the patents. With any application, the ideas must be weighed up against current state of technology. If it's not new in that sense, patent applications should be refused. That didn't happen here...

January 21, 2013

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I agree with Ant. Do GEC have a patent to stop anyone importing light bulbs for home use?
I cannot believe the judge who ruled on this case. I will never buy a litepanels product again.

January 20, 2013

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Camcamman

I wonder does this effect the company I would consider their biggest threat, F&V? Their lights are brighter, and way less expensive. I ask because the suit declares litepanels as " Litepanels, Ltd., of the United Kingdom and Litepanels, Inc., of Van Nuys, CA," And the filing ask that those "entering the US, should be barred" whereas F&V has a US site.
Also, I didn't see their name listed as a respondent but did see IKAN, Fotodiox, and Flolight, among others.

January 20, 2013

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I stand corrected, F&V is their but states them as doing business out of China. But my question still applies since like I said, My panels were from their illinois site.

January 20, 2013

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I hope Europeans are more sensible and don't let this stupid thing happen on this side of the pond too.

On a side note...
Want to know how patent wars slowed down photography in England in the 1840s, while it thrived in the rest of the world? Read this very amusing article:
http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2011/05/1839-and-the-frenzy-that-followed

January 20, 2013

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I've read some documents and LP states the following:
"Our intellectual property consists of the technology which makes full spectrum, white light emitting diodes useful for illumination and proper image capture in the creative arts."
source: http://www.litepanels.com/ip.php

So they did some research on how to give their LEDs a high CRI value.

But as far as I know, the chinese lights they are targetting are about 85 CRI, so not even 'full spectrum'. (I even question the fact that LP even has these so called full spectrum leds).

So these chinese brands shouldn't have any problem importing... They are using generic LEDs in a grid formation, most of them not even 100% dimmable...

January 20, 2013

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Sam

It's not wise to make a judgment based on one side of the story. This should be (is) public record somewhere, and everyone has access to the proceedings, so before I make a comment one way or another, I'll have a read of the decision, the pleadings and proceedings.

January 20, 2013

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DIYFilmSchool.net

What a bunch of Dbags. I've always regarded LPs stuff as ridiculously overpriced for the type and power of light output. Unless you stack a 20'x20' group of them together, they're barely useful for lighting much more than someone's face, especially with current digital cameras that need lots of light for video with little noise. And why do that when the power and throw of simple incandescent or Fresnels is far more useful and powerful (and yes, hot, but more than worth the tradeoff).

Typical corporate, monopolistic, "we just patented your birth name so you owe us money" kind of behavior, underwritten by corporate-friendly courts.

But yes, agreed with most everyone here. I never saw the necessity of LP product at their outrageous prices, and because of this kind of corporate behavior (what, you couldn't just have gotten a specific patent for your particular light-array?), I will never use their product in the future.

January 20, 2013

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Brad

This stinks - plain and simple. I always admired Litepanels for their pioneering technology, but not for their exorbitant prices. And (potentially) shutting me out from using products I can afford doesn't mean I'm going to buy their stuff.

January 20, 2013

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Ed Wright

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