Vinson Conlan’s LED Patent Report: What’s at Stake in Cree v. Feit?

A previous post reported on the LED patent lawsuit between North Carolina LED manufacturer Cree and Feit Electric Company in which Cree has alleged infringement of a number of utility and design patents.

There are several patents involved with this case but none as far reaching as U.S. Patent No. 8,596,819 (‘819 Patent). Let’s look at the first claim:

1.  A lighting device comprising at least one light emitting diode, said lighting device, when supplied with electricity of a first wattage, emitting output light with a wall plug efficiency of at least 60 lumens per watt of said electricity.

This claim covers all LED devices with an efficacy over 60 lumens per watt with at least one LED.

The latest Energy Star luminaire requirements (taking effect in 2016) for all luminaire categories, but track need to meet or exceed 60 LPW. Most large retailers have relied upon Energy Star to help qualify products for sale to residential customers. In some cases, products without Energy Star will not be considered for sale in retail outlets.

Energy Star is required to qualify for many utility rebate programs. Energy Star is a Department of Energy program and has been made aware of the ‘819 Patent. They were made aware of this patent issue before the latest luminaire requirements were finalized.

Those who honor the ‘819 Patent would be denied rebate dollars and the potential to sell into some large volume accounts because meeting Energy Star requirements would force them to infringe the patent.

Energy Star has the best interest of the country in mind, but one has to question their decisions when their policies will clearly steer rebates dollars and retail business directly towards a single patent holder.

This case is about more than one company against another, it is the test of a patent that could be used successfully to deny businesses the opportunity to get an Energy Star listing and qualify for rebate dollars.

For those looking to sell into the commercial channel and get added to the Design Lights Consortium (DLC) qualified product list, they will only qualify for display case lighting and directional interior categories. All lamps would infringe as well. Like Energy Star, DLC qualified products are eligible for rebates.

Another Cree patent in this lawsuit is U.S. Patent No. 8,628,214 (‘214 Patent).  This patent is very similar to the ‘819 Patent. The first claim of the ‘214 Patent reads:

 1.  A lighting device comprising:a first string of solid state light emitters in series, the first string comprising at least two solid state light emitters,

a second string of solid state light emitters in series, the second string comprising at least two solid state light emitters,

a third string of solid state light emitters in series, the third string comprising at least two solid state light emitters,

the lighting device, when supplied with electricity of a first wattage, emitting output light with a wall plug efficiency of at least 60 lumens per watt of the electricity.”

Perhaps it is time for those who support Energy Star and DLC to consider a revised set of efficacy standards that promote free trade and offer their customers a wider range of options. The following organizations have influence, and as objective third parties can help all interested parties find solutions that will help save energy without infringing these patents.

DSIRE Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency:  http://www.dsireusa.org/

ACEEE (American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy):  http://aceee.org/

AESP Association of Energy Service Professionals:  http://www.aesp.org/

CEE (Consortium for Energy Efficiency):  http://www.cee1.org/

ESource:  http://www.esource.com

 

Vinson Conlan has been developing light fixtures for nearly 30 years and has spent the last 9 years specializing in LED products. He has 8 US patents and has a broad range of experience working for family owned businesses as well as Fortune 100 companies. Vinson currently heads up product development for a leading company in the solid state lighting industry.

Vinson Conlan Avatar

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.