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UC Santa Barbara seeks to authorize retailers and suppliers of patented filament LED lighting technology

 

On July 30, 2019, the Regents of the University of California embarked on a groundbreaking patent enforcement campaign targeting major retailers for the unauthorized distribution of UC Santa Barbara’s patented filament LED lighting technology. Building on its initial success, the Regents expanded the campaign’s reach on August 31, 2020, filing a second complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) against additional retailers and manufacturers of products containing the patented technology.

More details on the patent enforcement campaign can be found below.

UC Santa Barbara is offering retailers and suppliers licenses to become authorized sellers of its technology.
 

Authorized Retailers and Suppliers

Recognizing our industry partners that have licensed the technology

Acclaim Lighting Adamax / Newhouse Lighting Bed Bath & Beyond
Elong International E Mark Globe Electric
Harbor Freight Hunter Fan Lamps Plus
Latimer Lighting LEDVANCE Luminance
Michigan Expedited Logistics Service Lighting / Lightbulbs.com Sterno Home
Sunlite West Coast Imports Wintergreen
Xmark Holding / HueVee

 

Background

 

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have dedicated years to developing technology that reinvented the traditional incandescent light bulb, creating an option for consumers and businesses that requires less energy, creates less heat, and distributes light in all directions. By some estimates, the average American homeowner can save up to $600 per year in energy costs by switching from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs.

UC Santa Barbara has amassed a portfolio of patents that cover filament LED light bulbs. Reflecting Thomas Edison’s enduring fame for inventing the light bulb, many products on the market today that infringe UC Santa Barbara’s patents are called “Edison” or “vintage” LED light bulbs because they resemble Edison’s iconic light bulbs with glowing filaments visible inside glass bulbs. These bulbs may include a variety of filament LED configurations, such as different shapes of filaments, different numbers of filaments, and different lengths of filaments. Products containing filament LEDs include lighting fixtures that are installed in residential, commercial, or industrial settings that include filament LED light bulbs.

Since filament LED light bulbs became available in 2014, the market has grown substantially. In 2019 alone, projected sales were more than $1 billion. Retailers, manufacturers, and other businesses have been profiting from the unauthorized sales of this technology since it first became available, despite UC Santa Barbara’s efforts to notify infringers and establish licenses with companies in the lighting industry.

These prior efforts, which are consistent with conventional practices in university technology transfer, have not been sufficient to address the ubiquitous and explosive infringement in this industry. As a result, UC Santa Barbara has opted to take more aggressive action through litigation.
 

 

The Campaign 

 

UC Santa Barbara and its legal counsel, Nixon Peabody LLP, launched this first-of-its-kind patent enforcement campaign against an entire industry in July 2019, initially targeting five major retailers that represented a large cross-section of the market selling filament LED light bulbs containing the unlicensed technology. 

The goal of this campaign is to ensure that UC Santa Barbara is compensated for the commercialization of its intellectual property, while setting a precedent for how industries must respect the intellectual property of universities, enabling them to continue to reinvest in education, and the research and development of world-changing technologies. During the campaign’s first year, more than a dozen retailers and suppliers became authorized sellers of the patented technology.

On August 31, 2020, UC Santa Barbara and Nixon Peabody expanded the reach of the campaign to include suppliers and manufacturers of products containing the patented filament LED technology, requesting that the ITC initiate an investigation into the unauthorized importation and distribution of UC Santa Barbara’s patented filament LED technology by General Electric, Savant Systems, Feit Electric, Home Depot, Ikea, and Satco Products.

UC Santa Barbara’s hope is to demonstrate the importance of respecting the rights of university patent owners. Companies must appreciate that, when selling technology patented by a university, it is their responsibility to do so only with the proper license agreement in place. 

UC Santa Barbara remains committed to protecting its intellectual property rights and paving the way for other universities to do the same.
 

Become an Authorized Seller

UC Santa Barbara encourages any company that seeks to sell (or that already sells) filament LED lighting products to contact the University through our Contact page. We will work together to negotiate a reasonable license agreement that will benefit the University, you, and your customers.