Exclusive: Signify Targets Smart LED Bulb Market by Filing Suit Against Chinese Competitor to Hue
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EdisonReport.net (our US based parent), has learned that Philips (now Signify) has filed its first patent infringement action in the U.S. (in the Southern District of NY) since it lost its International Trade Commission (ITC) case against Feit, Satco and Lowe’s this past July. The defendant, Qingdao Yeelink Infomation Technology Co., Ltd., which goes by the name “Yeelight,” manufactures a smart LED bulb that is a direct competitor to the Philips Hue LED Smart Bulb. We reached out to the attorneys at Radulescu LLP for comment given their history of representing defendants in many Signify cases (see Radulescu LLP’s write-up on the ITC. Radulescu confirmed the filing of this new case and offered the following comments:
- This is the first infringement case Signify has filed against a Chinese manufacturer (Yeelight) with no operations in the U.S. other than online sales through Amazon, Walmart and the like.
- The accused Yeelight products are smart LED bulbs that are both networked and color tunable, and have been favorably compared to the Philips Hue. This could explain Signify’s decision to go after a direct competitor for the first time.
- Five patents have been asserted: U.S. Patent Nos. 6,969,954; 6,692,136; 7,014,336; 7,255,457; and 9,184,497. Four out of five are expected to be expired before the legal case runs its course (the expiration dates range from Dec. 2019 to August 2021). Notably, because of Yeelight’s lack of U.S. operations, Philips will apparently have to serve the lawsuit papers on Yeelight in China, which is a complex and potentially lengthy process (approximately a year if not more). Accordingly, three of the five patents could be expired by the time the case starts up in earnest.
- Two of the five patents have never been the subject of a prior lawsuit and are both directed to smart bulbs that include a communication (RF) link.
- The oldest patent (USP 6,692,136) among the five has been asserted previously but has never been adjudicated. This patent stands out because of its breadth: “1. A lighting system for producing white light, the system comprising: at least one light emitting diode; and a phosphor-light emitting diode disposed adjacent to the at least one light emitting diode.”