LED chip manufacturer BridgeLux (formerly eLite Optoelectronics) and materials developer Intematix, both based in California, have formed the Intellectual Property Secure Lighting Alliance (IPSLA), a network of solid-state lighting component suppliers who pledge to honor intellectual property rights of other companies.
'The 'LED gorillas' are very litigious, and there are hundreds or even thousands of patents related to LEDs. The benefit [of IPSLA] is buyer confidence and peace of mind from knowing that a thorough review has been done by an attorney and verification has been established via an independent body,' says Tom Jory, vice president of marketing for BridgeLux.
The alliance provides no guarantee a suit will not be filed against a customer or supplier, but instead, according to Jory, provides a 'peer review' of the situation. 'One of our biggest challenges will be keeping IPSLA members up-to-date as new patents are issued,' he says.
Potential members are required to certify that qualified patent attorneys have reviewed their products and processes and found them to be non-infringing to current IP standards at all levels. In order to join, they must complete the following steps:
Carefully study patents belonging to competitors and other companies that may be of concern.
Hire an independent patent attorney (not your own litigator or patent prosecutor) to review products and technology in comparison with a thorough and comprehensive list of US patents (Asian and European patents should also be considered as appropriate).
Assuming product does not infringe on any patents, obtain a 'freedom to operate' opinion letter from the attorney who performed the review.
Currently BridgeLux and Intematix are the alliance's only members, but according to Jory, other manufacturers have expressed interest. LEDs continue to grow in prevalence and popularity. A recent survey, conducted by solid-state lighting component manufacturer Cree, found that half of the 123 Light+Building attendees who participated in the research expect LEDs to account for more than 50 percent of their lighting sales by 2009.