The Dallas-based LED display and lighting products company Ultravision has filed a patent infringement complaint at the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), looking to get 37 companies barred from importing, selling or distributing what Ultravision considers infringing LED display products.
Interestingly, the companies are NOT all China-based, with the named companies including Samsung, Barco from Belgium and Nanolumens from Atlanta (which has its own track record of going after companies in courts).
Ultravision’s legal argument is built around the complaint that the companies named have imported and distributed modular LED Display products, including certain components, that infringe patents held by Ultravision.
“Ultravision fundamentally changed the LED industry by inventing light-weight, modular display panels that eliminate the need for cabinet displays, which are difficult to install and costly to maintain,” says William Hall, CEO and co-founder of Ultravision International. “The incredible demand we’re experiencing across industries tells us buyers recognize the value of buying LED technology from the actual inventor and U.S. manufacturer, rather than products being sold by foreign companies.”
“Foreign-made, modular LED display panels that infringe on Ultravision patents are being sold in America,” he adds, “and this adversely impacts Ultravision’s overall business and affects our ability to hire people here in the U.S.”
The companies involved in the USITC complaint include:
- Manufacturing companies: Shenzhen Absen Optoelectronic Co., Ltd.; Absen, Inc.; Shenzhen AOTO Electronics Co., Ltd.; AOTO Electronics (US) LLC; Barco NV; Barco, Inc.; Cirrus Systems, Inc.; digiLED (UK) Limited, formerly displayLED (HK) Limited; Elation Lighting, Inc.; Glux Visual Effects Tech (Shenzhen) Co.; Ledman Optoelectronic Co., Ltd.; Shenzhen Liantronics Co. Ltd.; Lighthouse Technologies (Hong Kong) Limited; Shenzhen Mary Photoelectricity Co., Ltd.; MRLED, Inc.; Prismaflex International France S.A.; Prismaflex USA, Inc.; Rocketsign Hong Kong Ltd.; Tianjin Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.; Samsung Electronics America, Inc.; Shanghai Sansi Technology Co., Ltd.; Sansi North America, LLC; Unilumin Group Co., Ltd.; Unilumin LED Technology FL LLC; Yaham Optoelectronic Co., Ltd.; and Yaham LED U.S.A., Inc.
- Private label companies: Formetco Inc.; Leyard Optoelectronic Co., Ltd.; Mitsubishi Electric Corporation; Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc.; Nanolumens, Inc.; Panasonic Corporation; Panasonic Corporation of America; and Vanguard LED Displays, Inc.
- Distributor companies: ANC Sports Enterprises, LLC; GoVision, LLC; and RMG Networks Holding Corporation
By filing this complaint with USITC, Ultravision is seeking as relief a permanent general exclusion order (GEO) barring from entry into the United States of all infringing Modular LED Displays imported, sold for importation, or sold within the U.S. after importation. It is also seeking a Limited Exclusion Order (LEO) directed to the specific parties accused in this lawsuit. Ultravision is also seeking cease and desist orders, preventing those parties from offering for sale, advertising, marketing, packaging, distribution, maintenance of inventory, or solicitation of any sale of imported infringing Modular LED Displays, whether through traditional retailers, distributors, online sales, or other electronic means.
“Ultravision is proud to play a key role in this new renaissance of bringing more production operations back to America, and with it, more jobs for the U.S. workforce to secure,” Hall said. “Keeping our nation strong requires keeping our workforce employed, and we are committed to ensuring our products are made here in the U.S. by workers who are incredibly skilled throughout the entire manufacturing process. By filing this complaint with the USITC, we have shown that we take our intellectual property very seriously and will continue to aggressively pursue action against any companies that infringe on our patents and impact the livelihoods of our workers.”
Ultravision has already litigated successfully against a significant Chinese infringer. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas recently ordered a Chinese company to pay Ultravision both compensatory and treble damages because of patent violations, and the Court also issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the foreign company, its officers and its affiliated entities from importing products that infringe on Ultravision patents. The Court went further to also issue a permanent injunction that bars customers from using products imported from that company that infringe certain Ultravision patents.
The USITC is a federal agency in Washington D.C. responsible for investigating unfairly traded imports and providing protection to U.S. industries. Under Section 337 of the Tariff Act, if the USITC finds that imported products are infringing, it will order U.S. Customs and Border Protection to bar the importation and sale of those products in the United States. The USITC may also issue cease and desist orders, preventing the named parties from selling or distributing infringing products already located in the United States.
Back in November, Ultravision won a patent case in an East Texas court, against a Chinese company.
This could easily look and smell like a classic patent troll case, but Ultravision is very much a practicing entity – with clients like Clear Channel UK buying LED spectacular boards from it. The company also has product up in Times Square. Companies defined as trolls tend to be those that own patents in a technology, but don’t actually make or sell anything – instead being primarily in the business of suing other companies.
The China Optics & Optoelectronics Manufacturers Association (COEMA) – which represents LED manufacturers in that country – issued a statement saying that the case is a “speculative move” amid rising bilateral trade tensions. The association will “organize industry resources and powers to actively cope with the investigation,” according to an announcement on COEMA’s website.
COEMA also said in the announcement, translated by Global Times, that the two patents the US company holds have no substantive restraint and harm to Chinese LED enterprises, and products with this patent feature had already been sold by many companies in the US market long before their patents were filed.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.