Nichia’s LED Infringement Verdict Stands

In a patent suit I’ve written about before involving LED designs, a judge has denied Seoul Semiconductor‘s motion for a new trial and for judgment as a matter of law to overturn a jury verdict that the Korean company infringed four of Nichia’s design patents (see the patents at issue here, here, here and here).  Seoul had argued (1) that Nichia didn’t prove its infringement case because it failed to show that the similarities between Seoul’s products and Nichia’s patented designs lay in the ornamental elements rather than the functional aspects of the LEDs (design patents only protect the ornamental features of a device), and (2) that Nichia’s patents are invalid because the devices are too small for the design features to be of any concern to consumers. 

In a perfunctory opinion, Judge Maxine Chesney of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco rejected Seoul’s arguments and found that Nichia had submitted sufficient evidence to support the jury’s infringement verdict.  The opinion simply based its findings on “the reasons stated by plaintiff,” which included Nichia’s citations to exhibits and deposition and trial transcripts to support its assertions that it had introduced enough evidence to show that its patented designs are not governed solely by function and that the overall design of Seoul’s products is substantially similar to the patented designs.  Nichia also cited testimony of the inventor and purchasers that they considered the appearance and attractiveness of the LED designs to be important.

Presumably, the next step for Seoul will be an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the court that hears all patent appeals).  Indeed, one of Seoul’s attorneys described the rejected motion as “an intermediate step between the trial and the appeal” because district court judges rarely alter the trial results.

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Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.