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Lumileds and Epistar resume war of words

The two LED titans get their handbags out again, with both companies publicly airing their own slant on the US International Trade Commission's initial rulings.

Like a couple of kids in a playground scuffle, Philips Lumileds and its Taiwanese rival Epistar are continuing their public slanging match over a set of interim rulings by the US International Trade Commission (USITC).

San Jose-based Lumileds, which initiated the current legal wrangling back in November 2005 when it filed a complaint about AlGaInP LEDs with the USITC (see related story), also sparked the latest war of words.

Lumileds says that the USITC judge presiding over the case "“ Sidney Harris - recommended that US imports of Epistar chips regarded as infringing Lumileds 5,008,718 patent, as well as any products containing them, should be prevented.

Epistar has a different take on Judge Harris's recommendations, saying that any such limited exclusion order would still allow third parties to certify that the products they are importing do not contain any metal-bond LEDs that infringe the 718 patent.

In other words, importers could use Epistar s updated metal-bonded (MB) chip designs and simply state that they believe these products are not subject to any exclusion order.

The crux of the argument appears to rest on Judge Harris s initial determination from January 8. This document is publicly available via the USITC web site and can be viewed here.

In the 21-point list of findings that he issued, Harris only specified one instance in which he believed Epistar to be violating Lumileds intellectual property. That is point 3, in which Harris states that "Epistar s MB and MB II products at issue in this investigation are found to infringe claims 1 and 6 of the 718 patent". According to Epistar, this particular product definition does not include the latest MB chips.

All of Epistar's other glue-bonded (GB) and omni-directional mirror adhesion (OMA) LEDs were found not to be infringing any of the Lumileds patents.

On the other hand, Harris also refuted retaliatory claims by Epistar that some of Lumileds related patents (Epistar did not cite the 718 patent) were either "obvious" or "anticipated".

If, as Epistar claims, the updated design of metal-bonded LEDs from the Taiwanese company can be imported into the US legally, Lumileds may have to change tack.

The US chip maker now plans to ask the USITC to also exclude from the US products such as traffic signals and brake light assemblies that feature the offending LEDs.

Presidential review
Bizarrely, no higher an authority than the US President himself may be dragged into the dispute. That s because after the USITC s final determination - expected May 8 - there will be a 60-day period during which any exclusion orders could be vetoed or modified.

Lumileds claims that Epistar will be required to "post a bond" based on the value of its infringing LEDs for any imports implicated during that Presidential review period.

Epistar, on the other hand, says that any issued exclusion order would only become effective after the 60-day review is over in early July. The case continues"¦

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