|Ruud Lighting, a Cree company, has filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Cooper Lighting in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Relating specifically to LED lighting products, this extends the legal dispute between the two companies.
Part of this dispute is a complaint that accuses Ruud of obtaining information from another company which was then used by Ruud to file its own patent applications.
Filed in late May, the latest lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction and monetary damages for infringement of US patent no. 7,952,262.
The ‘262 patent is entitled “Modular LED Unit Incorporating Interconnected Heat Sinks Configured to Mount and Hold Adjacent LED Modules.” It was filed in September 2007 and granted on May 31, 2011.
The patent covers a modular LED unit with a number of LED modules separately mounted on individual heat sinks, where the heat-sink fins have interlocking features to enable the modules to be interconnected.
In its complaint, Ruud claims that Cooper sells “a product known as its Generation Series LED Post Top Luminaire, which infringes the ‘262 patent.”
Ruud says that it has “manufactured and sold numerous LED products based on the inventions of the ‘262 patent for roadway-, area- and street-lighting applications, including certain of Ruud’s The Edge LED Floodlight products…The Ruud LED products based on the inventions of the ‘262 patents have enjoyed tremendous commercial success.”
Ruud and Cooper are involved in several other legal disputes related to LED lighting products. In April 2010, Ruud filed a complaint in Michigan against Cooper, claiming infringement of US patent no. 7,686,469.
Entitled “LED Lighting Fixture,” the patent was filed in September 2007 and issued on March 30, 2010, just 3 days before Ruud filed its lawsuit.
Subsequently, in June 2010, a lawsuit was filed against Ruud Lighting in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, and a second one followed in California. In each case the plaintiff was named as Illumination Management Solutions, Inc. (IMS), an LED lighting company based in Irvine, CA.
Although not named in the June 2010 complaint, Cooper acquired IMS in March 2009.
And for clarity it’s worth mentioning here that Cree acquired Ruud Lighting in August 2011.
In the first part of the IMS complaint against Ruud, IMS accused Ruud of infringing US patent no. 7,674,018 entitled “LED Device for Wide Beam Generation.”
But the second part of the complaint is more interesting, because it accuses Ruud of civil conspiracy. From approximately early 2006 until at least late 2007, says the complaint, Alan Ruud served as a
director of IMS. Alan Ruud was the founder and long-time chairman and CEO of Ruud Lighting.
The complaint alleges a conspiracy between Ruud Lighting and Alan Ruud to have the latter breach his fiduciary obligations to IMS.
Also, and most significantly, the complaint says that Alan Ruud obtained information from IMS that was used “to prepare and file patent applications and ultimately obtain patents that were assigned to Ruud Lighting, with the intention of restricting IMS in its development of business and business opportunities.”
Since IMS is part of Cooper, and Ruud Lighting is part of Cree, this has now become a significant dispute between two of the largest players in the US lighting market.