Artist Files Copyright Suit against Apple for Retina Display Photo
Future Sony Gaming May use Gaze, Gesture & Brainwave Controls

Apple Sued for LED Lighting Found in iPad 3 & MacBook Pro

1. LED Tech Development v. Apple
LED Tech Development LLC has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple. The patent infringement lawsuit concerns four granted patents that they claim Apple's iPad 3 and MacBook Pro infringe upon. Charles Lemaire, one of the original inventors noted on all four patents in this lawsuit has also been credited with patents for Lockheed Martin, Nuance Communications and other major companies.  


LED Tech, whose place of business is Tyler Texas, has filed a formal complaint with the court in Delaware against Apple for patent infringement involving four of their patents that they describe as being "patents by assignment." The patents involved in the case include 6,095,661, 7,393,119, 6,808,287 and 6,488,390.


The company is claiming Apple's products utilizing pulse-width modulation signals to drive light-emitting diodes, include the iPad 3 tablet device and MacBook Pro notebook. According to LED, the facts learned in the discovery process show that the infringement of LED Tech's patents is or has been willful.


In each of the four patents under "Field of the Invention" we read the following:


"This invention relates to the field of lighting, and more specifically to a method and apparatus of controlling and powering a solid-state light source such as a light-emitting diode or LED, for a portable battery-powered flashlight."


I don't think that the iPad or MacBook could be found at Home Depot's flashlight department, even though LED Tech is suing Home Depot for selling flashlights based on two of the very patents being used against Apple.


Yet there is one of the four patents that present a powerful claim. LED Tech's patent 6,488,390 Claim one states the following:


"A portable video camera and illumination source system, comprising: a housing; one or more light-emitting diodes (LEDs) attached to the housing; a video camera imaging device attached to the housing; a control circuit that selectively applies a plurality of pulses from a source of electric power to the one or more LEDs; and a feedback signal coupled to the control circuit, wherein the control circuit changes a characteristic of each one of the plurality of pulses to control a light output characteristic of the LEDs based on the feedback signal."


Whether that's enough to win this case against Apple is unknown at this time. The original assignees that are listed on the patents in this case include PPT Vision Inc. and inventor Charles Lemaire who is credited with patents for PPT Vision, Lockheed Martin, Nuance Communications and other major companies (See note by Charles Lemaire in the comments below).  


The case was filed in the United States Delaware District. No judge has been assigned to this case as of yet.


T8.1 General Break


NOTICE: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of certain legal cases/ lawsuits which are part of the public record for journalistic news purposes. Readers are cautioned that Patently Apple does not offer an opinion on the merit of the case and strictly presents the allegations made in said legal cases / lawsuits. A lawyer should be consulted for any further details or analysis. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments. On most legal cases, comments will be closed. See our Legal Archives for other patent infringement cases.


News Tidbit: Bloomberg goes out on a limb and points to Oct 23 as the launch date for the new iPad mini.



Sites Covering our Original Report


MacSurfer, Twitter, Facebook, Apple Investor News, Google Reader, Macnews, iPhone World Canada, Mac Hash, Groklaw, iPhoneinCanada, Tablet News, MacDirectory, TUAW, and more



Perhaps just karma indeed. By digging a bit deeper, we might learn that someone at Samsung brought this issue (pardon the pun) to light.

Thank you for saying something that's bugged me since Color Kinetics was doing the same thing a few years ago.

As a curious side note, when Litelab was making controllers for the night club industry, they used pulse width modulated dimming to control all the effects connected to their driver packs. Whether or not any of those were LED would be an interesting question, however, the controllers themselves had LED's on each channel indicating the switching and dimming function taking place out on the dance floor, so it seems this technology is really "old hat". Could prove to be a real patent breaker if someone followed up on that.

I think the key element in this is the feedback signal. I am sure that cameras that have auto flash systems have been using a feedback circuit to control the lighting for much longer than the term of this patent. Couple this with the use of PWM in electronics for decades and I believe that this patent should fall as being obvious. That the use of LED's can be shown to just be one of many sources of light that could have been used. and that the application of this technology is an obvous solution.

I cannot help but think that this is happening to a less deserving company.
It is not like Apple ever sued anyone for infringement of bogus patents like "rectangle with rounded corners". Oh wait...

Pulse width modulation for control of LED illumination levels is monumentally obvious to someone skilled in the art... this patent should never have been granted...

That's what we said when Apple was suing over the colour of the green call icon and the rounded rectangle shape of their iPhone...

This is just karma.

For 6,488,390 to stand, LED needs to prove that there is some kind of feedback signal present. In your average edge-lit LCD, there is not. It is simply a set of LED's controlled with PWM and nothing measures the output. There is no closed loop, as this patent suggests

It is amazing how so many cock roaoches are coming from everywhere suing apple. they are nothing but jealous loosers just looking for an opportunity to steal some money

The company is claiming Apple's products utilizing pulse-width modulation signals to drive light-emitting diodes, include the iPad 3 tablet device and MacBook Pro notebook. According to LED, the facts learned in the discovery process show that the infringement of LED Tech's patents is or has been willful.

So how else would you control an LED? There's going to be a ton of prior art going back to the first LED screen technology, and for that matter electrical house dimmer switches use a primitive form of pulse modulation.

Note that I haven't read the full patents, I'm in the middle of editing three books for publication, and don't have the time to spare, but I'm willing to bet that th technology can easily proven to predate the patent filing dates.

Another total botch up by the U.S.P.T.O. This patent should NEVER have been issued. That it was tells is that the U.S.P.T.O. is an incompetent dinosaur of an organization.

I'm beginning to think that companies shouldn't be allowed to sue for patent infringement unless it's within 90 days of the release of the product. Getting sick of these companies that lurk in the background for years and years, waiting for their potential targets to make tons of money before they sue them.

Pule width modulation has been around for ages to control dc motors and a host of other things, including light dimmers. The only difference here is that the light source is incandescent. Invalidating that patent should be a no brainer. That is why it will stand up in court.

More stupid patents courtesy of Rader's clowns on the CAFC.

Suing over the use of Pulse Width Modulation to control an LED, are they mad? Please, throw this nonsense out!

Re-correction as to my prior comment. It seems that one or more of the patents on inventions by me and other IBMers, originally assigned to IBM, has now been assigned to Nuance Communications.

The comments to this entry are closed.