Much like the moving light patent lawsuits that dominated industry conversation a decade ago, the current LED patent battle continues to be Topic A in the trades, blogs, mailing lists, and grapevine. In this corner, we have Color Kinetics, holder of several LED patents, the company that has filed several patent infringement lawsuits against competitors over the years. And in the other corner we have Super Vision International, another LED manufacturer that filed a suit against Color Kinetics in 2002 challenging its patents and formed a consortium of LED manufacturers from around the world, dubbed the LED Alliance. The past several weeks have seen a flurry of announcements from both camps. The following are some recent highlights:
On April 22, United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted Color Kinetics' motion for summary judgment regarding three of Super Vision's claims: interference with prospective business relationships, trade disparagement, and defamation. In essence, the Court determined that no reasonable jury could find for Super Vision on its claims, and therefore no trial was needed. Further arguments regarding summary judgment motions with respect to patent validity, enforceability and infringement were expected to be heard by the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in May.
Super Vision president and CEO Brett Kingstone responded to the summary judgment with a lengthy written statement, which said, in part, that it was a “minor victory for Color Kinetics, which unfortunately is one of a string of minor victories that are based primarily on procedural and discovery matters. None of these decisions have dealt with the fundamental merits of this case or the issue of whether or not their technology was based on prior art practiced in the industry.” He added that Super Vision plans to file a motion for reconsideration on this ruling with the court. Kingstone emphasized that the court's summary judgment only relates to Super Vision's counter claims for anti-competitive behavior and does not limit its existing claims for invalidation of Color Kinetic's patents due to prior art.
Despite the loggerheads, that has not stopped either company from forging ahead with new alliances other players in the LED game. James Thomas Engineering will now license Color Kinetics' intellectual property in connection with marketing its Pixel Range line of LED-based products in North America. Meanwhile, Super Vision has also entered into an agreement with James Thomas as well as Xilver, B.V. in The Netherlands for both companies to license its Variable Color Lighting System patent and its Laidman technology portfolio.
But in perhaps the most intriguing news of the month, Color Kinetics announced that it had entered into an agreement with lighting industry veteran David Cunningham to jointly develop solid-state lighting products for the entertainment, theatrical, and architectural markets. Cunningham, a legend in the lighting industry (and a rather colorful figure at that), has been credited for designing some of the entertainment industry's most ubiquitous lighting products, including ETC's Source Four® fixture and Sensor® dimmer lines. Through the agreement, his expertise will be applied to “developing products that merge Color Kinetics' intelligent LED control technologies with system requirements tailored to the needs of various applications.” The products will also apply the collective intellectual property of both Cunningham and Color Kinetics.
And just when you were getting bored with the whole thing…‥