Retired Professor Asks the ITC to Block LED Imports


While I have no data on the subject, I’ve noticed that the most commonly-litigated clean tech patents seem to be those directed to lighting products, particularly LEDs.  I’m not sure if this is true, or if true, why it is so.  Their ubiquity may be one reason:  LEDs are used by the billions in a wide array of applications from instrument panels to traffic lights to cell phones as an energy-efficient substitute for incandescent bulbs, so there are plenty of products to accuse of infringement.  Any other thoughts on this from readers would be appreciated.

In a previous post, I wrote about two oft-litigated LED patents owned by retired Columbia Professor Gertrude Neumark Rothschild, who has decided to spend her golden years litigating.  Ms. Rothschild settled one lawsuit with Philips Lumileds earlier this year, but asserted one of her patents again at the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).   The ITC is a federal agency that investigates trade and importation issues, including conducting quasi-judicial proceedings involving alleged infringement of intellectual property rights by importation of accused products pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1337.  It is a popular forum for patentees (though only injunctive relief is available, not monetary damages) because the proceedings progress much faster than those in the federal courts.

Ms. Rothschild filed a complaint with the ITC in February alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5,252,499, and the agency announced in late March that it would investigate whether the patent is infringed.  The Notice of Investigation lists more than 25 respondents, including electronics giants such as Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.  In late April, the ITC issued an order setting a 17-month investigation period with a target completion date of August 25, 2009.  So they’re off, and it will be interesting to see if any of the respondents are in it to win it, or whether they will settle and take licenses.

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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.