Editorials

October 13, 2012
 

Litepanels Answers Questions on LED Patent Rights Dispute

Help Us Stop Foreign Countries From Stealing Our Technology Now

F

or the past few months we have received emails and reports that urged all photographers and videographers to stop purchasing or supporting Litepanels. Litepanels is an award winning LED company producing lighting for video, still photo & motion picture production.

The reason stated in their emails and website is their desire to stop Litepanels from gaining a monopoly on the LED photo and video light market, which would be bad for the industry.

Litepanels is an award winning company

The truth is that Litepanels is simply enforcing the law that protects their patented LED technologies including a number of other patents that make their lights the best in our industry.

Here is a quote from one recent email sent to us by Patent Free LED a so called private organization that we believe, was actually created by Flolight one of Litepanels competitors.  They also manufaturer LED lights and are currently in legal battles with Litepanels over Litepanels patent infringement claims and are pushing their website and Facebook visitors to the Patent Free LED site.

You can see they even assert that the legal patents Lightpanel was granted by the U.S. and International Patent Offices was because these agencies Didn’t Get It Right.

 

“The International Trade Commission Investigation instituted by Litepanels in August 2011 (337-TA-804) is now considering an initial determination by the administrative law judge that could ban the importation of the majority of the population of LED lights that could be used for video, film, broadcast and photography, except those made or licensed by Litepanels.

 An immediate effect will be the elimination of market competition and a consequential spike in the price of LED light systems that can be used for stand and camera-mounted video, film, broadcast and photography lighting.  

Such a ban will decimate the current variety of LED lighting systems available to people involved in all phases of video, film, broadcast and photography industries, including nationwide film productions, television, medical, law enforcement, event producers, students, churches and other industries involved in the production of broadcast, video, film and photography.”

 

Our Take On This Matter

The above statement would make it appear that they would like you to believe  that the world will come to an end because Litepanels owns certain LED technologies that they will not share with other manufacturers. This is not true.

They further state that law enforcement, students, churches, medical industries, old people without teeth, would somehow be deprived of this technology.  They ask the reader to believe that we should not allow this to happen?  This statement is obviously designed to appeal to those that are unable to understand the truth or those who tend to believe everything they read on the internet is true…in this case it is not.

Let me assure you that the world will not come to an end because other LED light manufacturers will still be able to produce their lights.  If they do use Litepanels technology, then they can if they simply license that technology.  And don’t believe the chatter that you will be forced to pay an exorbitant amount of money  to enjoy their technology in your lights, that is simply nonsense. There will be other LED lights available and you will never be “Forced” to purchase a Litepanels LED light, unless you want to.  Please understand that they will not have a monopoly on LED lighting for our market and the Free LED claims are simply not true.

 

Litepanels MicroPro – Professional Broadcast Quality On Camera LED Light for Video Film Television and Still Photography

Litepanels has one of the most complete lines of LED lighting for the Broadcast, Pro AV, DSLR.  and Video markets. They are priced right for what they offer and are quite competitive to would be competitors that have infringed on their patents.

Their very popular Litepanels Micro series starts at under $200 up to a bit over $300.  I have been using one of their earlier units now for couple of years and love it.  So, those that would make you believe that you would be forced to pay more for these lights are not telling you the truth. Yet on the same link above at Amazon.com,  you will see a cheap copy at only $45.

Now, do you really think the two will be equal?  That is the point of this entire article.   Anyone that is serious about their work will never be satisfied purchasing one of these cheap imported copies.  Not only won’t they perform properly, but I have seen so many complaints that they are constructed of light weight plastic and the mounting shoes break off after a bit of use.

Litepanels is a company located in California and their products are designed and assembled right here in the U.S.A.   They have been honored for their technology and are a wonderful example of what American’s strive to be: creative, innovative, and honest.  They provide jobs for our brothers and sisters and don’t ask anyone for handouts.  They should be praised for who they are and what they do.

They will fight as all American’s will, to protect their rights.  They own many patents on technologies that are incorporated in their lights.  These innovative technologies cannot be found legally in some of the other copycat domestic or imported products.

All companies must make a profit or they simply do not stay in business.  We do expect to pay a bit more for cutting edge technology that serves our purposes?  Millions purchase the latest technological marvels from Apple, and Apple will protect their patents when they discover that another company is attempting to steal their technology.

Samsung Nexus, target of the Apple Patent Infringement case.

Most of us are aware of the patent infringement suit Apple brought against Samsung for patent violations of their iPhone.  The courts awarded Apple a one billion dollar judgment in that case.  So patent infringement is a serious business and those that attempt to use another company’s works or technology should not be praised, but criticized.  The illegal attempt to  sell products that infringe on other companies works and rights should never be sanctioned.

Corporations or foreign countries that practice reverse engineering to discover how a product is made, is not new.  It has been going on for years and it must be stopped. If we allow it to continue it can undermine an entire economy.  We are all aware that technology is stolen every day through corporate espionage, do we or should we condone this behavior?  I think not.

Litepanels Croma – Camera-mounted LED lighting fixture that provides Litepanels hallmark soft light with the addition of variable color temperature output.

No one can force me to purchase a Litepanels light.  If I prefer to buy a cheap imitation, that will not be capable of doing the same job, I can certainly do so.  There are companies in the market that use LED lights meant for other purposes or industries and will sell them as video or photo lights, I have seen them and tested them and I can tell you, they simply do not do the job.

Most of us understand the value of the real thing and look to support those companies that take pride in their products. The choice of course is yours, but  I for one, will always pay that extra cost for an iMac, iPad or other device,  because I want the very best, in the products I use.

When the negative stories started about this patent situation, I decided to contact Litepanels to hear their side of the story.  I had interviewed them at the NAB Show in Vegas in April and loved what I saw and requested a Croma for a future product review.

Go to my article and watch the video to see my interview with Litepanels at that show.  When I read these claims, I felt that something had to be wrong. It didn’t sound like the same company these others have portrayed in their fabricated story.

As you will see from their statement, their side of the story is quite different from those who would like to deny Litepanels rights. These companies that have attempted to steal Litepanels technology are now named in public documents easily located on the Internet.

Who Will Settle This Matter?

The U.S. International Trade Commission is investigating the allegations made by Litepanels regarding their patents.  If they find that Litepanels rights are being violated by other companies, then these other companies have will be forced to cease and desist importing those products into the United States.  Everyone deserves their day in court and I for one will wait to see the final outcome of these findings before passing any judgment.

Initial-Litepanels-ITC-Complaint

 

Without patent protection there would be no innovation and no new investment in the development of new products, something this country simply cannot afford.

We all understand that America is a country that has brought some of the best products and technology to the world.  It is simply what we do best. We do not encourage theft of technology, from the Chinese or any country and we do not produce poorly made products by paying our workers a few dollars each day for their labor. What we do however, is pride ourselves on our ability to innovate and create and we do have workers that take pride in their jobs, and the products they produce.

Did you know that many of the Litepanels products including their new Croma are designed and assembled right here in the U.S.A.  We should applaud this company not condemn them by those that wish to undermine them.  By stealing their technology and producing their copy cat products overseas is something these companies should be ashamed of, not praised for, simply because they can do it cheaper.

It is a ludicrous argument that Litepanels. the legitimate owner of this technology will have a monopoly on the entire LED lighting market.  They have not, or will not, prevent other companies from developing their own technologies in LED lighting, but they will fight for the protection of their rights.

Litepanels statement is quite clear and understandable and IPA fully supports their rights and the rights of other companies to do exactly what Litepanels did.  Become creative, spend years and millions of dollars in development and patent their own unique technologies and then, expect the patent laws will protect those rights as the courts today will surely protect the rights of Lightpanels.

Do not be swayed by those who have their own self interests at heart to fool you in believing this is unfair or scare you to take action and file complaints against Litepanels, when they themselves admit that this matter is before the ITCI. It is easy to put up a blog on the Internet and make all sorts of statements false or otherwise. Few will challenge things they read on the Internet, although they should as I do.

Companies Named In The Dispute

Public documents name the companies in this dispute that are alleged to be using Litepanels patented technologies.  You will see that Flolight is one of those named, the same company that is trying to sway public opinion on their side. Little wonder, since losing this case could cost these companies millions of dollars .  We have the entire 128 page document which details the specifics on Litepanels claims.  Many of these documents are now in the public records and can also be found on the internet on the LED Free website.

Taken from the documents on the LED website. You can see they have been named in this legal action.

Legitimate Licensees Using Their Technology

As you will see from their statement, which we just received, Litepanels explains what they have developed, what their rights are and their willingness to share these technologies by licensing these patented technologies with other companies.

LED Light – Maxima-84 Hybrid+ ([email protected]) Dimmer, Flash, Gels ML840H – Continuous LED Lights | Manfrotto

I recently received a new Manfrotto ML840H LED light that retails for $279 (USD Street Price) and contains the Litepanels technology.  Manfrotto and Litepanels engineers have worked on the development of this series of lights and Manfrotto is now one of the  authorized licensee’s of the Litepanels technology.

They did it the proper and legal way and had the full cooperation of Litepanels.  With licensing fees included in their costs, they can still make a profit selling their lights at competitive prices.  So why can’t the entire LED photo light companies do the same?  Why do they prefer to usurp the legal rights of Litepanels? It is all about the money.

The Jury Is Out

So the jury is out right now and although it is my belief that Litepanels deserves their day in court where they can prove their ownership of these patents. The infringing companies may be ordered to pay substantial damages if they lose and you, our reader, will then see the wisdom in what I have written in this article.

I am not here to defend an individual company, but rather to defend our system that has been set up to protect the valuable rights companies have and to encourage others to innovate knowing that they to will be protected.

Why IPA is in support of Litepanels.

I am publishing their statement here so you can see why we are in support of Litepanels and their efforts to protect their valuable technology legally.  I would suggest that those companies seeking to steal their technology, produce inferior products or try to persuade the public through false claims on a website or through grass roots social networking sites, be warned, the truth will always prevail and the court awards in favor of Litepanels can be substantial.  Stop now, you will not win.

Let us all wait for the final rulings and stop believing what we have been hearing by a few. These people are either uninformed,  or have their own self-interests, that they are trying to protect.  The truth will be heard soon enough.

I would urge you to visit their website, see what they do, look at all the awards they have received and the depth of their product line. Then compare what you see there, with those that claim they are the competition. I am sure you will understand more then you do now.

 
Litepanels Patented Property Statement

Is Litepanels trying to claim that they own the patent on all LED panel based video lights?

Litepanels filed for patent protection of its technology when we first began developing the application of LED for use in the media/creative arts of film, television and photography. We do not own patents on all LED technology. In fact, our patents specifically refer to the application of full spectrum, white LEDs for image capture in those mediums. Litepanels lighting products also include a number of preexisting technologies for which we pay licensing fees to the owners of those patents. We seek similar licensing agreements with companies that wish to use our intellectual property.

We are firm believers in free, fair competition and the patent system that allows our economy to flourish. In order to protect the specific technology we developed, Litepanels was required to prove the validity of our patents, and the facts of this particular case have been heard and decided in an unbiased and open forum. The defendants were allowed ample opportunity to present their best evidence and arguments against the validity of our patents, with the result that our claims to our intellectual property were upheld.

Why are these products patent-worthy?

Litepanels was founded by industry professionals with backgrounds in lighting, professional photography and engineering who understand and appreciate the importance of protecting intellectual property. In the entertainment and creative industries, intellectual property can be a screenplay or an iconic photograph. Our intellectual property consists of the technology which makes full spectrum, white light emitting diodes useful for illumination and proper image capture in the creative arts. The design, development and effective implementation of LED technology evidenced by our patented products took years to research, test, develop and manufacture.

Clearly LEDs alone cannot constitute a product sufficient for professional use in photographic applications. There are a number of technical challenges that had to be overcome before LEDs could be employed effectively for such purposes. These challenges included, but were not limited to: thermal management, precision of color temperature, smooth and flicker free dimming, and the requirements for alternate power input capability. Thereafter all of these technologies had to be combined in a way that would meet the high expectations of film, video and photography professionals.

We continue to develop, design and assemble innovative fixtures based around full spectrum, white LED technology, a pursuit which allows us to employ dozens of people in our Los Angeles office and assembly plant.

Is Litepanels trying to use their patents to block competition and force everyone to pay higher prices for LED lighting?

We are not trying to monopolize or block all LED lighting fixtures from the market. The recent ruling is directed at manufacturers who are unwilling to pay licensing fees and infringe on Litepanels’ intellectual property. In fact, there are a number of companies who have chosen to license our technology in order to build their own LED fixtures, just as we license some technology from others for our products.

We welcome more manufacturers to license and implement our technology to ensure its widest possible acceptance throughout the market. We do not expect the results of these intellectual property conflicts to dramatically affect the prices of LED fixtures in the future.

There are also companies in the industry who have taken it upon themselves to establish their own research and development initiatives to create new kinds of LED fixtures and other innovative forms of lighting. They are not infringing on our patents and continue to bring welcomed innovation and healthy competition to the market.  We of course welcome free enterprise and encourage companies to innovate and create new products, that is what America is known for, but let me restate our position, we do not condone companies from manipulating the truth and attempting to gain an unfair and illegal advantage by taking the innovations and creations of others while claiming it as theirs.

 
Help Us In This Fight – Spread The Word

By supporting  Litepanels you and I can actually help stop some of the sales of these illegal units in our country and that is a good thing.  We need to draw the line in the sand here and now.  IPA is now asking those that read this article to click on our Facebook LIKE button at the end of this article and to send the link to this article to all of your friends on social networking sites.  Email the link to everyone you know and post it on forums around the world.  We can all make a difference.  Keep our technology here in the United States and prevent those foreign countries of once again stealing our innovative new products and claiming them as their own.

We should all know soon enough who is right in this matter and await the final outcome as these companies go to battle in the courts.


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About the Author

Len Rapoport
Len Rapoport
IPA Editor-In-Chief, ID: 1000 • I am an internationally published photographer and the founder of International Press Association. As president and editor-in-chief, my duties at IPA are extensive. For over 40 years I have written articles, had my photos published in millions of publications, record album covers, books, and in the digital media. I was senior marketing and sales executive for major corporations, including my own and as a corporate communications consultant. I have taught photography and formed IPA 20 years ago. I currently work from my home office and continue to actively cover media events in addition to all of my other IPA and IMPress responsibilities.



 
 

 

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