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

01.19.13 @ 8:01PM Tags : , ,

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

COMMENT POLICY

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

  • Soosan Khanoom on 01.19.13 @ 8:09PM

    Fxxk

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • Afraid not, Vitec does appear to own those companies.

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

          • Miller is still independent. As far as I can tell, they the only non-vitec tripod maker left… and the inventor of the fluid head!

        • The only thing that is sort of misleading is their inclusion of the National Geographic Society Logo. If you read closely though, it says that they license the use of that logo on their products such as bags.

      • 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.

      • 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/

  • joel billie on 01.19.13 @ 8:26PM

    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!

    • I bought a Litepanels Micro once an it was total bull**** – then got a F&V 96 for less money and it totally kicks ass. I also looked at the horribly expensive litepanels mini and expected it to be better than the F&V, but it wasn’t. Same light quality, same light output, less battery options, much higher price.
      No wonder Litepanels wants to protect their stuff: their prices are too high and their performance isn’t that stellar.
      When some 150 bucks Chinese ripoff is even better than your 900 bucks product, then there is definitely something wrong with your pricing or your performance…

  • LP = bunch of shitbags

  • 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.

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

  • Raphael Wood on 01.19.13 @ 9:08PM

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

  • “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…

    • 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?

      • Because Disney lawyers and lobbyists paid politicians to give it to them. Patents and copyright were originally intended to provide enough protection to innovators that they could recoup their investment and make a profit, but then open the market for new innovation. Copyright is now used to allow market monopolies. Even a show like Wicked has to pay royalties. In many cases, copyright owners refuse to license their properties to anyoone. Sad state of affairs.

  • Light Panels – The MAC of the video industry

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

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

          • I rarely think of computers whenever I’m hungry for fast food…

          • 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.

        • Brand owners have another headache as well. If your product name becomes the generic name for a class of product your brand can lose billions in value. i.e., scotch tape, white out, post it notes, etc.

      • Maybe I was trying to EMPHASIZE something.

      • Daniel Mimura on 01.31.13 @ 6:51PM

        MAC, capitalized is a make up company.

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

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

      • love it!! Sue your brother!!

      • 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?

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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’.

  • 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.

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

    • 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…

      • 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…

        • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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

  • 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…

  • DIYFilmSchool.net on 01.20.13 @ 10:21AM

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • I’m not a fan of LED panels that give off lousy light, but if I had to use them, I think the Rosco LitePad HO+ panels are much better. They are also very expensive. Are they owned by Litepanels too?

  • Let’s all encourage Hitachi to make video LED panels and see how that goes down in the courts. I find it hard to believe that a company could patent lights for a specific industry when the basic technology is foreign owned? Now, to my mind, they could patent aspects they created but that’s about it.

  • Gary Simmons on 01.24.13 @ 4:40PM

    How in the world can they say putting LED’s with a specified color spectrum on a Flat panel is a technology exclusive to them. Not only is it a lie but a very bad lie There are other flat Led panels out before Litepanels ever made any. I can see is they came up with a special circuit or something but even then It’s certain that there are other circuits that will operate the same 5500k color LED’s. I would have to see what tech they are using but this whole deal smells bad like monopoly bad.

  • in Russia we do not give a banana about patents. but good for me I already purchaced this lame and poor lights

  • Jeffrey Collins on 01.24.13 @ 5:57PM

    Oh well. I just make my own lighting equipment anyway. it’s not that difficult and far cheaper.

  • This is in line with US patent law. US patent law makes everybody outside the US furious, because it is as close as you can get to insane.
    This Litepanels case is redicolous in most thinking peoples eyes, but it is nothing to several othe US patentr cases that affect people around the globe. The problem is that the US laws reflect the worst of capitalism, and that the US still believe that they “own” the world. There are many things that are great with the US, that are great with capitalism, but US legislation is not in line with the general publics understanding of what is fair.
    The US patent laws are the worst in the world. If not for anything else, I really hope this Litepanels case opens some American eyes to what is actually going on in their country. But, I do not expect so. The majority of US Citizens are ignorant about anyone but themself, careless about anything that do not directly affect their own life, has a limited knowledge about their own society or the world around them. Harsh words? Yes, but after living in the US for several years, after travelling extensively in the US (approx. 40 states), what I have learned is that the average US citizen has no or very limited knowledge of the world beyond their own home state. Scary? From a European perspective, yes. Scary.
    Good luck US people. This Litepanels case means nothing to us (outside the US), but it should be an eyeopener to those of you that care about your society (as much as yourself).
    Do not worry about the LED/Litepanels case. In five years LEDs (the way Litepanels see them) are gone and you are back into a happy world. B.t.w, if you want to know something about US patents? Ask your farmers. Those people out in the MidWest trying to grow your food. Be prepaird for the biggest shock in your life. If you dare. Litepanels is a joke compared to what your farmers have to face. When you learn about that, that is when you really get scared.

  • Welcome the the new world order, where Apple has a patent on rectangular devices and Litepanels has a patent on LED lights.

    International patent law (well in this case US patent law only) has to change immediately! This is getting more ridiculous on a daily basis!

  • todd pacific beach on 01.25.13 @ 12:47PM

    No worries at all, Lite Panels. First, I will just go to ebay and purchase them from Hong Kong, THAT is not banned and good paying off the FTC or some other corrupt bureaucrat to make that happen. This is repulsive, how does a European country come into the United States and do this?! What kind of corrupt “Justice Department” would allow this? Oh, wait….

  • Patents used to protect innovators now it shuts them down. I guess you can market them as not very well designed flashlight or general interior lights and if the purchaser finds another use for them so be it. Just make sure you let the blogger know and they will market it for you.

  • Not much impact on consumers? Think again. Litepanels now has a monopoly. They can charge whatever traffic will bear. Worse, innovation in LED lighting will slow to a crawl. Without competition, litepanels can reduce their R&D investment, and slow product development to a crawl. The bottom line is, Litepanels will make lots of money, and consumers will see lower quality products at higher prices.

  • Buster Blakeney on 02.21.13 @ 4:34PM

    This is ludicrous, and it sucks big fat donkey balls. The assertion that we don’t care isn’t accurate in the least. I, for one, will be boycotting LitePanels, and buying – well, I guess “unergonomic flashlights” is as good a name as any. From eBay. From exclusively Chinese resellers.

  • Terence Kearns on 08.12.13 @ 11:55PM

    “What does it really mean to you? Not much, and never did.”

    What a load of bollocks. Who said that? Of course it means something to us. It means we cannot access check LED light panels which limits, particularly the indie, our ability to light on our budget. DUH!!!

    Regardless of what opinion you have about the merits of the case, it does have an impact. I was actually eying off some LED panels on ebay at the time but after this broke they were an order of magnitude more expensive. I still haven’t incorporated them into my budget now and may be looking at other options.

    So yes…. impact already…