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International Trade Commission Moves Forward With Philips’ Patent Infringement Claim

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has voted to institute an investigation of certain LED lighting devices, LED power supplies, and components thereof.  The products at issue in the investigation are LED lighting devices (e.g., luminaires and bulbs that use LEDs as a light source), and components thereof, such as LED power supplies, reflectors, and optics.

The investigation is based on a complaint filed by Philips Lighting North America Corp. of Somerset, NJ, and Philips Lighting Holding B.V. of Eindhoven, Netherlands, on September 21, 2017.  The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States and sale of certain LED lighting devices, LED power supplies, and components thereof that infringe patents asserted by the complainants.  The complainants request that the USITC issue a limited exclusion order, and cease and desist orders.

The USITC has identified the following as respondents in this investigation:

Feit Electric Company, Inc., of Pico Rivera, CA;

Feit Electric Company, Inc. (China), of Xiamen, China;

Lowe’s Companies, Inc., of Mooresville, NC;

L G Sourcing, Inc., of North Wilkesboro, NC;

MSi Lighting, Inc., of Boca Raton, FL;

Satco Products, Inc., of Brentwood, NY;

Topaz Lighting Corp. of Holtsville, NY;

Wangs Alliance Corporation d/b/a WAC Lighting Co. of Port Washington, NY; and

WAC Lighting (Shanghai) Co. Ltd. of Shanghai, China.

By instituting this investigation (337-TA-1081), the USITC has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case.  The USITC’s Chief Administrative Law Judge will assign the case to one of the USITC’s administrative law judges (ALJ), who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing.  The ALJ will make an initial determination as to whether there is a violation of section 337; that initial determination is subject to review by the Commission.

The USITC will make a final determination in the investigation at the earliest practicable time.  Within 45 days after institution of the investigation, the USITC will set a target date for completing the investigation.  USITC remedial orders in section 337 cases are effective when issued and become final 60 days after issuance unless disapproved for policy reasons by the U.S. Trade Representative within that 60-day period.

WAC Lighting filed a response to the claim, calling it a “repetitive action” against WAC Lighting, since the case is already being heard in district court.  WAC Lighting goes on to call this, “the latest step in a years-long aggressive campaign by Complainants to force lighting companies such as WAC Lighting to pay onerous and improper royalties for a large portfolio of patents that are likely invalid or not infringed.”  WAC Lighting also fired back at Philips, accusing them of filing these accusations to increase the cost of LED lighting and create a barrier from further acceptance of LED products.

WAC Lighting goes on to claim Philips is using its patents to force smaller lighting manufacturers to pay Philips a flat rate to make LED products, even if the products do not contain the patented material.  WAC Lighting believes many companies are paying Philips the flat fee to avoid litigation expenses, which may be more costly.

Philips Lighting did file a its own response to the WAC Lighting claims, saying the public interest favors the protection of intellectual property and should favor companies like Philips who invest domestically in innovation. It calls the use of Philip Lighting’s patents, “unfair competition, allowing them to benefit from Philips Lighting’s years of research, development, and innovation without payment.

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