On Tuesday, the University of California indicted to five major retailers, including Amazon and Wal-Mart. They are accused of violating the rights of so-called “existential threat”. This term is used when foreign manufacturers infringe schools’ patents.
According to reports, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, IKEA and Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. were charged with infringing four patents related to “filament” LED bulbs. They consume 90% less energy than and last for many years longer than conventional bulbs.
These patents are related to the so-called “reinvention of light bulbs” by researchers led by Shuji Nakamura, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Nakamura Shuji won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics. The university is filing a lawsuit in the US District Court in Los Angeles for unspecified compensation, including royalties, and hopes that the retailer will sign a licensing agreement.
The University of California also asked the US International Trade Commission to investigate the behavior of these retailers. They say the retailers did not require suppliers to comply with the school’s patents.
Filament LED bulbs are sometimes referred to as “Edison” or “vintage” bulbs because they are similar to the bulbs invented by Thomas Edison, with a glowing filament inside the bulb. In the court documents, we can see they were available for purchase in the United States until the last five years. Sales in the United States will exceed $1 billion in 2019.
By the way, this is the first litigation of its kind. The lawyers of the university say this is for the first “direct patent enforcement” campaign against an entire industry.