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A Patent Infringment Lawsuit

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by STEVETERRY, Jul 10, 2008.

  1. STEVETERRY

    STEVETERRY Well-Known Member

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    CB'ers may be interested in the following press release issued by ETC today:

    July 10,2008

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC) announced today that it has filed a patent infringement suit against Lightronics Inc. seeking unspecified damages in U.S. District Court. After a number of attempts by ETC to resolve this matter without resorting to litigation, the action was filed with co-plaintiffs David Cunningham and Gregory Esakoff. Cunningham and Esakoff are the inventors and owners of the Source Four® ellipsoidal spotlight design, which they have exclusively licensed to ETC. The suit alleges that Lightronics knowingly and willfully infringed and continues to infringe certain U.S. Patents covering the ETC Source Four® ellipsoidal reflector spotlight.
    .
    ETC CEO Fred Foster commented: “The Source Four® ellipsoidal is a groundbreaking invention that has had a profound effect on the lighting industry over the last 16 years. ETC places a very high value on the intellectual property surrounding the Source Four® product, and we will vigorously defend it against illegal patent infringement.” David Cunningham added: “Patent protection in the lighting industry provides a key incentive for new product development and innovation. Patent infringement has the effect of removing this incentive and would eventually have a negative effect on new product innovation.” Foster continued: “ETC has a long history of significant and continuous investment in the development of the Source Four® product line. Patent protection is a key enabling factor in this development program.”
     
  2. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Oh great there goes my cheapo supply of S4 knock-offs. :rolleyes::mrgreen::twisted:
     
  3. LDTom

    LDTom Member

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    Very Interesting, Thanks for Sharing. I never used a Lightronics cheaper S4 knock off but they must be something if ETC is coming after then.
     
  4. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    I was wondering when that would happen. It's funny this showed up today because I just saw an advertisement for them today in Live Design.
     
  5. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    Finally!

    I was wondering how long Lightronics would get away with this.
     
  6. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    No surprise there.
     
  7. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Good luck on that one! I once owned Sigmatel stock. Had been $40 a share as they supplied all the MP3 chips for Ipods etc. Then the Chinese company ACTs semiconductor copied their chip and blew them off the market. Sigmatel sued. As ACTs was in China, (even though they had American distribution) they filed that the case had to be tried in China. Sigmatel's stock was at $3 per share, right before they went belly up on Feb 4, 2008.

    Since all Chinese companies are really only one, the Chinese government, the chance of prevailing is about 0%

    A quick check shows that there is no such thing as American stock for Lightronics Inc. (Dow, Nas, S&P.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2008
  8. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    /sarcasm ON
    A great way to stifle creativity and innovation by filing frivolous lawsuits against innocent companies whose products may appear, on the surface, to be vaguely similar to yours.

    It's Vari*Lite vs. High End all over again.

    Tomorrow I'm going to try to buy as many of those ERSs as I can, then sell them at a huge premium on ebay. At least until Philips buys ETC and PRG.
    /sarcasm off
     
  9. STEVETERRY

    STEVETERRY Well-Known Member

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    Derek, my friend, you have it wrong.

    ST
     
  10. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Not the first time I've had something wrong. I've screwed up way more important threads than this!:)

    Seriously, Lightronics has a Virginia Beach, VA address. Do they, in fact, import their products from Asia? Are these so-called Ellipsoidals, made in China? FWIW, MSRP on Lightronics 6.25" units is $440, "street" price for ETC 426 is $308. In ten or even two years, where are parts going to be available?
     
  11. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    So what makes ETC sue Lightronics and Elation, but not Strand or Altman? Are we talking intellectual property based upon appearance of the fixture? Because then that makes sense. Or, on the other hand, is the suite based upon overall fixture design and performance?

    Derek, the part about Philips buying ETC and PRG, you never know but part of me wouldn't be surprised to learn that the idea might have passed over a meeting table once of twice.

    I understand ETC in their effort, and I support them, but I do agree, with the Lightronics being more expensive and less well known, fewer will be sold, and servicing with be a royal pain. The worst part is some poor souls will be stuck with these lights for a long time.

    And what about that knock-off PARnel, surprised nothing has been filed over that yet.
     
  12. Kelite

    Kelite Apollo Staff Premium Member

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    I believe each of those companies have taken the proper avenue by paying a licensing fee to David Cunningham to use the patented technology of the compact filimant lamp as well as the dichroic coated glass reflector.

    Also, if a product's outward appearance can be easily confused with a patented product, then 'market confusion' is often the result...
     
  13. rosebudld

    rosebudld Member

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    I've seen those Lightronics too and thought the same thing like really are they as good and if so what's stopping ETC from suing them..
     
  14. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    The compact filament lamp would be under the patent of the lamp manufacturer. This makes the Source 4 a "leaning" patent, as it requires a product from another patent holder in order to work correctly. Nothing unusual there, as most product patents are "leaning" as they are built on other pre-existing patents. The Lightronics fixture is an obvious copy. Problem is, what may be obvious to us may not be obvious to a judge and jury. As a good friend of mine, who is a corporate lawyer says, "It is rare for this to turn out well for either company." In most cases, the battle drags out for years and costs a fortune. Such nuances as the leaning patens make for gray areas that confuse the legal process. Once again, my best wishes to ETC as they are at least standing up for themselves!
     
  15. dramatech

    dramatech Well-Known Member

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    What you say about the lamp being patented under the lamp manufacture would be the logical answer. In the case of the HPL lamp the patent is held by ETC. When they were in fact working with the designers of the Source 4, they couldn't get any lamp manufactures to produce the lamp because they thought there wouldn't be a great demand for it. ETC put up the money for the development of the lamp with the stipulation of holding the patent. This is why many companies were able to produce very similar instruments to the source 4, and not infringe on the pantent by using a different lamp. Most of the other companies used slightly different lens fields of angle and didn't follow the exact shape of the source 4. It is very questionable as if that appearance is patentable under the new patent laws. The Lightronics units are manufactured in China by a seperate company that has nothing to do with Lightronics. The fact that Lightronics is the exclusive distributor makes them the US target for ETC. I seriously doubt that the case will ever come to trial. ETC probably gave Lightronics a "Cease and dissist" order and Lightronics balked. Lightronics is a privately owned corporation owned by Kevin Nelson, the designer of the initial tree hung dimmers and rack mount dimmers that is their trademark. The ETC smartfade series is pretty much a copy of those Lightronics products that have been around longer than ETC. ETC is a huge corporation that could eat Lightronics for lunch. Lightronics will back down as the ERS line is not a big producer for them, and really isn't priced competively to a source 4. I talked to the folks at Lightronics during LDI, ( I have known them almost from their beginings) and they said that they were marketing them just to make their line more complete and didn't expect to sell all that many. A very similar situation is the Behringer Ultrapar 1000. It is a direct knockoff of the ETC PAR. In fact many of the parts are interchangeable. They thought that they could get around the HPL patent issue by using a lamp with a G9.5 socket. Truth is that there is a removeable heatsink, that when removed the instrument will use a HPL lamp. ETC issued a cease and desist and Behringer quit selling them in the US and Canada.
    My comments are facts as I know them, and I am not taking issue with creative patent laws or their morality. Each purchaser must deal with that with their own conscience.
     
  16. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Hmm. A search among the many patents of David W. Cunningham turns up this: something about some new-fangled Light Emitting Diode method of illumination. That will never catch on.;)

    But the one for Water-Heater for Locomotives from 1906 is interesting. Perhaps ETC is investigating alternative energy sources in an effort to lessen our dependence on foreign oil?
     
  17. STEVETERRY

    STEVETERRY Well-Known Member

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    Actually, all the relevant patents in question are held by Cunningham and Esakoff (not "the lamp manufacturer") and exclusively licensed to ETC:

    5,345,371
    Re. 36,316

    Please take a look at them to get the full picture--they tell the story.

    ST
     
  18. Lightingguy32

    Lightingguy32 Active Member

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    I too was wondering when this was going to happen. The lightronics copy has a body that looks a lot like the ETC S4 and it uses the HPL lamp. I saw an add online for them back in september 2007 and thought to my self "when are they going to get a lawsuit fired at them?"
     
  19. Sean

    Sean Active Member

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    Steve...

    What makes the patent for:
    "Lighting control system dimmer module with plug-in electrical contacts"
    #5352958
    different from the Colortran ENR's? Well, other than some material selection? I read through most of it, and nothing jumped out at me.

    Just curious....

    --Sean
     
  20. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Cunningham designed the ENR for C-Tran, then turned around and sold the design to ETC as the Sensor, making the correct determination that the licensing agreement with C-Tran wasn't tight enough to prevent him from doing so. C-Tran sued and lost, big-time.

    Steve B.
     

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