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LED business news: IP update on Eaton and Seoul; Forest moves to LEDvance

LED business news: IP update on Eaton and Seoul; Forest moves to LEDvance

Published on:Dec 3, 2018
By Maury Wright [Editor in Chief]
Eaton has settled a patent infringement action against other luminaire makers, while Seoul Semiconductor has expanded its IP action against retailer Fry’s; and MLS has made the move to combine Forest Lighting into its LEDvance business unit.


Eaton has announced that it settled a patent infringement suit relative to recessed lighting against lighting manufacturers Cordelia Lighting and Jimway. Seoul Semiconductor has announced an expansion of its intellectual property (IP) action against big-box retailer Fry’s Electronics that was initially filed at the end of August. MLS has quietly moved to integrate the Forest Lighting business unit into the larger LEDvance operation.

IP actions

The Eaton IP action had been filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia back in 2016. Eaton did not release details of the settlement but said the agreement will result in Cordelia and Jimway receiving licenses to the Eaton patents that had been infringed.

“Protecting the intellectual property in our innovative lighting portfolio is something we take very seriously,” said Kraig Kasler, president of the Lighting Division at Eaton. “This settlement and license agreement recognize the value of our intellectual property relating to our LED downlights and ensure that our customers will continue to benefit from the high-quality solutions that the Eaton lighting team has developed.”

Seoul Semiconductor, meanwhile, said it filed an amended complaint in its suit against Fry’s. It’s becoming increasingly common for LED manufacturers to pursue retailers in the US for selling end products such as TVs that integrate infringing LEDs. The actual TV manufacturers can be difficult to rein in when operating in nations that don’t have strong IP laws and enforcement in place. For example, Nichia recently settled a complaint against home-improvement retailer Lowe’s.

Seoul Semiconductor’s WICOP LED intellectual property (IP) has been the subject of lawsuits launched against big-box retailer Fry’s Electronics, as they relate to LED TVs sold by the retailer that allegedly utilize the WICOP technology.

Seoul Semiconductor’s WICOP LED intellectual property (IP) has been the subject of lawsuits launched against big-box retailer Fry’s Electronics, as they relate to LED TVs sold by the retailer that allegedly utilize the WICOP technology.

In the original complaint against Fry’s, Seoul said TVs being sold by the retailer infringed 15 patents across the areas of LED packaging, fabrication, epitaxy, system-level backlight architecture, optics, and more. Seoul said further research had revealed that products sold by Fry’s also infringe four patents related to the company’s WICOP (wafer-level integrated chip on PCB) LEDs that are based on chip-scale package (CSP) technology. Seoul has been an industry leader in pushing the CSP technology and TV backlight applications have been a key market for such LEDs.

“We hope that our commitment for technology innovation would inspire young entrepreneurs and small businesses,” said Sam Ryu, Seoul’s vice president of IT Business. “Protecting that technology against infringement is a cornerstone of our business and sends an important message to the market and other innovators who would follow in Seoul’s footsteps — that hard work and innovation will be respected.”

LEDvance and Forest

Moving to the Forest merger into LEDvance, it was truly just a matter of time before such action would take place. LED manufacturer MLS had launched Forest Lighting in North America back before it had any financial interest in LEDvance. Forest gave the company a captive customer for its LEDs and a way to grow its global business. Forest emerged on the scene around 2014, focused on selling T8 retrofit lamps for linear fluorescent sockets. The company has subsequently expanded into luminaires.

There still has been some differentiation among the Forest and LEDvance business models. Forest has supplied the value end of the market focused on low prices and ready availability through distribution. LEDvance has been supplying the middle tier of the market and has rapidly moved from a lamps heritage to deliver innovative luminaires. The company just named a new CEO a few weeks back with Lawrence Lin moving into that position from parent MLS.

But surely there are many overlaps between the two organizations; and the Sylvania brand remains a strong one and is used across many LEDvance products. Now the Forest lamps and luminaires will join that portfolio with LEDvance taking over management of the Forest products. The only real hurdle to such a move was cleared this past April when MLS became the sole owner of LEDvance, with the company shifting the stakes of partners IDG Capital and the Yiwu State-Owned Assets Operation Center (Yiwu) to investments directly in MLS.

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