Litepanels is trying to block the import and sale of LED photo and video lighting in the US

Litepanels has filed a lawsuit against Sony and a lot of other companies, related to consumer and professional video equipment and products that infringe two of Litepanels’ patents covering LED technology.
The lawsuit alleges other camera-mounted lights infringe two of Litepanels’ patents that cover LED technology.

The first patent is US Patent Number 6,948,823, titled “Wide area lighting apparatus and effects system,” which was issued to Litepanels LLC in September 2005 and exclusively licensed to Litepanels Inc.
The second patent asserted is US Patent Number 7,163,302, titled “Camera-mounted semiconductor lighting apparatus,” which was issued to Litepanels in January 2007.

The complaint said that the plaintiffs “knowingly and willfully infringed and continue to infringe on the ‘823 and ‘302 patents by making, using, selling, importing or offering to sell within the United States, or actively inducing others to make, use, sell … goods and services that practice the patents-in-suit.” The suit seeks a permanent injunction against Sony barring the company from infringing the two patents, enhanced damages for willful infringement and the award of attorneys’ fees and costs.

Those “patents” are nothing but pathetic.

Abstract
A lighting effects system comprises an arrangement of lamp elements, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or other light elements, on a panel or frame. The panel or frame may be relatively lightweight, and may include one or more circuit boards for direct mounting of the lamp elements. The panel or frame may have an opening through which a camera can view. A mounting bracket and assembly may be used for attaching the panel or frame to a camera. The lamp elements may be electronically controllable so as to provide differing intensity levels, collectively, individually, or in designated groups, and may be strobed, dimmed or otherwise controlled according to manually selected or programmable patterns. Different color lamp elements may be mounted on the same panel/frame, and, in particular, daylight and tungsten colored lamp elements may be mounted on the same panel/frame and their relative intensities selectively controlled by control circuitry.

This – so called – patent was issued in September 27, 2005! At this time, I already had at least 3 LED panels from 3 different Chinese companies. WTF?

So what completely retard schmuck is granting such a “patent”?
Is this just plain douchebageness or does this need some money transfer to accounts in Switzerland ?
At this “patent office” I could probably getting a patent on candle sticks any day.

This is gonna back lash big time on Vitec, as the “round edges” stunt backlashed on Apple.
At least my company will avoid Vitec Products like the plaque in the future.

We already sold all our Litepanels quite a while ago. The price performance ratio went out of the window and the service is a disaster.
We had quite some isuues since they are sold to Vitec. Today you can have much better quality panels, at a much better price.
Litepanels was resting on their laurels much too long. Looks like they following Apple in the trivial Patent-Troll business now.

Here is an article from NextWaveDV that pretty much covers the situation:

 

I have always had a huge respect for the lighting gear that Litepanels has been producing over the years, but at the beginning of the month they filed a 337 complaint with the United States International Trade Commission to halt:

…the importation into the United States, the sale for importation, and the sale within the United States after importation of certain LED photographic lighting devices and components thereof.

This would stop all other LED video and photo lights from being sold in the US and effectively give Litepanels a monopoly on the market.

Usually I try to keep my head out of legal matters, but this could really effect every video producer in US. LED lighting has been becoming more and more affordable and a lot of shooters have been slowly migrating to it. While Litepanels were always the high end choice and the dream of most shooters, they weren’t always in everyone’s budget. If this goes through, there may be no other option than to buy Litepanels or go back to fluorescent.

I will also openly admit that I am a bit biased in the matter. I’ve been considering developing my own LED lighting and have been working on prototypes for a few months now. If this goes through, all my work will be for not.

Read the full 337 complaint here and share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter.

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD!
The small companies affected by this don’t have the millions of dollars necessary to fight Litepanels in court, but if consumers show Litepanels that they will not tolerate a LED monopoly, there might be a chance of changing this.

[UPDATE 1]

The complaint indicates where you can contact the USITC and tell them how this will:

negatively affect the…competitive conditions in the United States economy, the production of like or directly competitive articles in the United States, or United States consumers.

Even though it indicates that responses must be in within five business days of the initial filing of the complaint, they do mention that:

There will be further opportunities for comment on the public interest after the issuance of any final initial determination in this investigation.

If you are afraid of Litepanels creating a monopoly and stopping affordable LED lighting from being sold in the US, I recommend you let the USITC know.

[UPDATE 2]

For those who are a little confused by all the legalize being thrown around, you can read a layman’s summary on the ITC 337 Law Blog.

[UPDATE 3]

Here are some other discussions and blog posts going on about this topic:

CheesyCam 1 and 2
SDFCPUG
b-roll.net

[UPDATE 4]

As I continue to look into this, the worse it seems. After talking to some higher-ups (who will remain nameless) it looks like Litepanels is trying to block the import of any LED used for film, video or photo, regardless if it is similar to their own designs or not.

How can this be possible when it would obviously create a monopoly? Well it’s because to the USITC and the patent office, film, video and photo are a niche market and so having a patent on LEDs for film, video and photo fits within their definitions of a patent. Those in the industry understand how massive the market really is and need to inform the USITC and patent office that Litepanels will have a massive monopoly if the 337 complaint goes through.

The legality of the complaint is currently attacking several smaller manufacturers of LED lights. However, historically in cases like this, it is very likely that they won’t stop there. Soon they will be going up against the big guys like Arri, Kino Flo and Mole Richardson who are all releasing LED lights. Imagine no other LED film lighting options except Litepanels.

[UPDATE 5]

I’ve put together a short video to help better explain all of this. Please share it and continue to spread the word.

[UPDATE 6]

I know we’ve been throwing around a lot of “legalese” but the two things to really focus on are the USITC 337 complaint and the patent.

The complaint is trying to block certain other LED manufacturers from importing and selling their LED video and photo lights in the US. As we stated before, this will not stop with just this handful of manufacturers. If Litepanels wins here, they will continue up the line. Also, as we mentioned in UPDATE 1, the USITC allows for consumer responses to the complaint where this would cause a negative impact in the production of like or directly competitive articles, which is what we are encouraging people to do.

The reason this complaint is even allowed is because Litepanels has patents that state they own the rights to LED for video and film. These patents shouldn’t have ever been passed and they should be fought in court. Unfortunately, according to one law source’s estimates, it would probably take close to $5 million to fight this battle. Regardless if they won, most of the manufacturers couldn’t afford this. This is why it may be good to contact the patent office explaining the negative affects of Litepanels’ patents.

As Richard Andrewski of Cool Lights USA, one of the respondents in the 337 complaint, explains:

Litepanels is owned by Vitec Group. Here are all of the fine businesses owned by Vitec:

Anton/Bauer, Autoscript, The Camera Store, Litepanels, Microwave Service Company, Nucomm, OConnor, Petrol Bags, RF Central, Sachtler, Vinten, Vinten Radamec, Avenger, Brilliant Stages, Colorama, Gitzo, Kata, Lastolite, Litec, Manfrotto, Manfrotto Distribution, National Geographic (manufactured & distributed under licence), Tomcat, Bexel

I want you to know that every dollar you spend with these companies is helping in this fight against inexpensive lighting and no doubt other similar products.

Here’s a quote from the Vitec 2010 Annual Report:

The Group is at risk from low-cost competitors who may sell similar products at lower prices, particularly for high volume items such as the simpler photographic tripods. While the Group also sources those cheaper products from lower cost countries, it combats this threat by patenting its technologies wherever possible and taking action against any infringement, continuously innovating its products and employing significant marketing and distribution capabilities.

Check back here for continued updates.

Tony from NextWaveDV allowed me to mirror his article here, since this matter needs some serious spread of word.

5 thoughts on “Litepanels is trying to block the import and sale of LED photo and video lighting in the US

  1. LEDs are great, but I don´t think they have any benefit for the environment. Our governments are promoting electric cars now – if that happens we are using so much more energy for transportation, that illumination will be below the noise.

  2. Lite panel has created nothing,
    not the led
    not the a special circuitry
    not the camera
    not the hot shoe
    not light stands
    nothing
    only big money bullies.
    some one should tell them look at what is going on in New York! The time for this kind of practice is over. Hooshmand Harooni Stellar Lighting Systems

    • “some one should tell them look at what is going on in New York! The time for this kind of practice is over.”

      Yeah, this may be the beginning of the “American Spring”. I´m glad to see, the American people finally get they ass out on the streets and claim their country and constitution back.

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