Cree files lawsuits to protect intellectual property in LED lighting market

Durham, N.C.-based Cree Inc. has filed complaints with the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin to curb alleged infringement on Cree’s patented technologies. Cree, an innovator of LED lighting, manufactures lighting products in Sturtevant, where it employs more than 1,100 employees.

The complaints are against Pico Rivera, Calif.-based Feit Electric Company Inc. and its Asian supplier, Unity Opto Technology Co. Ltd. The suits allege infringement of 10 patents related to LED lighting in addition to the accusation that Feit and its supplier have made false and misleading advertising claims that some of its products meet ENERGY STAR specifications.

“Cree fully supports competition, but it should be fair competition,” said Chuck Swoboda, Cree chairman and chief executive officer. “We have invested nearly $1 billion in R&D over the past 10 years to create fundamental technology that has enabled the LED lighting revolution. With more than 4,000 issued patents, we have an obligation to act to protect our shareholders and our licensing partners.”

As part of the complaint, Cree is requesting that the U.S. International Trade Commission issue an order to exclude infringing and falsely advertised articles from entry into the United States as well as a cease and desist order that requires the respondents to stop selling infringing and falsely advertised LED bulbs in the U.S.  

Cree argues that Feit and Unity Opto are infringing Cree’s patents and misleading consumers with their advertising, thereby enjoying an unfair advantage in the market and discouraging the development of new products that benefit consumers.

Cree said it is the first to develop sophisticated technology to achieve omnidirectionality of light to replicate the experience of an incandescent bulb. As a result, Cree states that it introduced the first sub-$10 LED light bulb to U.S. consumers that looks and lights like an incandescent bulb.

Through a series of tests, Cree said it has determined that a certain number of Feit’s bulbs that carry the ENERGY STAR label fail critical performance requirements such as omnidirectional light distribution. Consequently, Cree alleges consumers are purchasing bulbs, based on the trusted ENERGY STAR label, that do not perform as promised.

Cree was founded in 1987 and employs nearly 3,900 people across the United States. Its licensing program, which includes over 20 licensing partners, allows other companies to use its proprietary technology, and supports these organizations’ pursuit of new markets and products.

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