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:
- Download this document and save it to you desktop: ITC Response Form
- 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.
- Once you have completed the questionnaire please indicate your intent by adding your name at the bottom where it says: “Your Name Here”.
- Once completed, save the file and attach it to an email and send it to: LED@patentfreeLED.com
- 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.
- File ITC Response Regarding Litepanels Case
- Sample Response to the ITC
- Litepanels Patent Case Petition
- Official ITC Documents