I have always had a huge respect for the lighting gear that Litepanels has been producing over the years, but at the beginning of the month they filed a 337 complaint with the United States International Trade Commission to halt:
…the importation into the United States, the sale for importation, and the sale within the United States after importation of certain LED photographic lighting devices and components thereof.
This would stop all other LED video and photo lights from being sold in the US and effectively give Litepanels a monopoly on the market.
Usually I try to keep my head out of legal matters, but this could really effect every video producer in US. LED lighting has been becoming more and more affordable and a lot of shooters have been slowly migrating to it. While Litepanels were always the high end choice and the dream of most shooters, they weren’t always in everyone’s budget. If this goes through, there may be no other option than to buy Litepanels or go back to fluorescent.
I will also openly admit that I am a bit biased in the matter. I’ve been considering developing my own LED lighting and have been working on prototypes for a few months now. If this goes through, all my work will be for not.
PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD!
The small companies affected by this don’t have the millions of dollars necessary to fight Litepanels in court, but if consumers show Litepanels that they will not tolerate a LED monopoly, there might be a chance of changing this.
The complaint indicates where you can contact the USITC and tell them how this will:
negatively affect the…competitive conditions in the United States economy, the production of like or directly competitive articles in the United States, or United States consumers.
Even though it indicates that responses must be in within five business days of the initial filing of the complaint, they do mention that:
There will be further opportunities for comment on the public interest after the issuance of any final initial determination in this investigation.
If you are afraid of Litepanels creating a monopoly and stopping affordable LED lighting from being sold in the US, I recommend you let the USITC know.
For those who are a little confused by all the legalize being thrown around, you can read a layman’s summary on the ITC 337 Law Blog.
Here are some other discussions and blog posts going on about this topic:
As I continue to look into this, the worse it seems. After talking to some higher-ups (who will remain nameless) it looks like Litepanels is trying to block the import of any LED used for film, video or photo, regardless if it is similar to their own designs or not.
How can this be possible when it would obviously create a monopoly? Well it’s because to the USITC and the patent office, film, video and photo are a niche market and so having a patent on LEDs for film, video and photo fits within their definitions of a patent. Those in the industry understand how massive the market really is and need to inform the USITC and patent office that Litepanels will have a massive monopoly if the 337 complaint goes through.
The legality of the complaint is currently attacking several smaller manufacturers of LED lights. However, historically in cases like this, it is very likely that they won’t stop there. Soon they will be going up against the big guys like Arri, Kino Flo and Mole Richardson who are all releasing LED lights. Imagine no other LED film lighting options except Litepanels.
I’ve put together a short video to help better explain all of this. Please share it and continue to spread the word.
I know we’ve been throwing around a lot of “legalese” but the two things to really focus on are the USITC 337 complaint and the patent.
The complaint is trying to block certain other LED manufacturers from importing and selling their LED video and photo lights in the US. As we stated before, this will not stop with just this handful of manufacturers. If Litepanels wins here, they will continue up the line. Also, as we mentioned in UPDATE 1, the USITC allows for consumer responses to the complaint where this would cause a negative impact in the production of like or directly competitive articles, which is what we are encouraging people to do.
The reason this complaint is even allowed is because Litepanels has patents that state they own the rights to LED for video and film. These patents shouldn’t have ever been passed and they should be fought in court. Unfortunately, according to one law source’s estimates, it would probably take close to $5 million to fight this battle. Regardless if they won, most of the manufacturers couldn’t afford this. This is why it may be good to contact the patent office explaining the negative affects of Litepanels’ patents.
As Richard Andrewski of Cool Lights USA, one of the respondents in the 337 complaint, explains:
Litepanels is owned by Vitec Group. Here are all of the fine businesses owned by Vitec:
Anton/Bauer, Autoscript, The Camera Store, Litepanels, Microwave Service Company, Nucomm, OConnor, Petrol Bags, RF Central, Sachtler, Vinten, Vinten Radamec, Avenger, Brilliant Stages, Colorama, Gitzo, Kata, Lastolite, Litec, Manfrotto, Manfrotto Distribution, National Geographic (manufactured & distributed under licence), Tomcat, Bexel
I want you to know that every dollar you spend with these companies is helping in this fight against inexpensive lighting and no doubt other similar products.
Here’s a quote from the Vitec 2010 Annual Report:
The Group is at risk from low-cost competitors who may sell similar products at lower prices, particularly for high volume items such as the simpler photographic tripods. While the Group also sources those cheaper products from lower cost countries, it combats this threat by patenting its technologies wherever possible and taking action against any infringement, continuously innovating its products and employing significant marketing and distribution capabilities.
Looks like the ITC has begun their investigation of Litepanels’ 337 complaint:
On August 31, 2011, the U.S. International Trade Commission issued a press release announcing that it voted to institute an investigation ofCertain LED Photographic Lighting Devices and Components Thereof (Inv. No. 337-TA-804).
Read more about this on the ITC blog.
Thanks Dozenbaloons for sharing this.
Also, in an encouraging update, ikan has officially decided to fight the Litepanels complaint:
Litepanels seeks a general exclusion order which, should they prevail, would allow them to prevent LED photographic lighting and other devices from entering the United States in the future, and without further hearings, review or approval from any outside group or governing body.
IKAN will oppose the complaint. Interested parties may contact the U. S. International Trade Commission and voice their concerns in this matter. For more information, please contact:
James R. Holbein, Secretary to the Commission, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street, S.W., Washington, D.C.20436, telephone (202) 205-2000.
Read more about this on ikan’s blog.
Check back here for continued updates.