University of California – Santa Barbara files lawsuit over LED light bulbs

In order to stop the selling of vintage looking LED light bulbs, the University of California at Santa Barbara (UC-SB) has filed a civil lawsuit in Federal Court in Los Angeles against five of the US’s major retailers such as Walmart, Target, Amazon, Ikea, and Bed, Bath and Beyond. 

UC-SB has also filed claims with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC)in Washington, DC.

The vintage looking LED light bulbs look like incandescent light bulbs that were originally invented by Thomas Edison back in 1878. They have clear sepia tinted glass with the filament exposed and these bulbs are popular in a lot of restaurants and in home interior design.

Usually LED light bulbs use an opaque glass that hides the filament structure inside the glass. The LED bulb technology was developed by researchers at UC-SB’s Solid State Lighting and Energy Electronics Center to produce an exposed filament that disperses light in all directions without the added heat that’s produced by incandescent light bulbs making the LED bulbs cool, more energy efficient and lasting longer.

The attorney for the university, Seth Levy, said that the LED bulbs are made overseas by a large number of manufacturers and so it was easier to sue the businesses, who were at first approached to get licenses to sell the special LED bulbs. 

Levy says a license needs to be obtained by retailers because of the use of intellectual property that belongs to UC-SB which has the patent on it and UC-SB should be receiving royalties from each purchase.

Longford Capital is a litigating funding firm, which will help cover the university’s legal costs in order to keep funds from being diverted from other academic priorities. Longford will get a partial cut from any proceeds from the lawsuit but the major bulk of it will go to UC-SB.

Generally it takes about 15-18 months after a claim has been filed with the ITC and it agrees to investigate which is quicker than filing a suit in district court. What happens is that an import ban will be put on the LED products which often times moves the sued parties to the bargaining table.

The global LED Lighting market which includes residential, commercial as well as industrial usage, is a successful market at $45.57 billion in sales in 2018. It is expected to keep growing at an 11.8% rate each year through 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research in June.

The U.S. Energy Department says that energy consumption should be reduced by 40% by 2030 with the use of LED lighting.

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