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CK vs the WORLD!


Okay, so I am not a lawyer… I am sure you’ll figure that out shortly as you read on – but at the same time, I have an opinion on the subject, as do most people with any vested interest in the lighting business – and especially, the LED side of the lighting business.For years now, CK (Color Kinetics) have applied for, and received, a ton of patents specifically concerning LED lighting technologies. Let me first say that I am in no way against legitimate patents for new technologies or intelectual properties. Any individual or company has a legal right (and even an obligation!!) to protect their ideas or technologies for a period of time. In my mind, the spirit behind this was always based on the company or individual’s ability to recover their costs of development on that idea or product. A very fair process, or so it should be….In this particular case, some of the ideas patented were probably unique and innovative ideas. I am not really sure which ideas – but I am sure their have to be some… right?? However, for the most part, these CK patents have been new patents on old ideas as far as I can see. Take the Pulse Width Modulation patent. Don’t ask me to explain the technology behind PWM, but what I do know is that it’s a technology that’s been widely available, and used for MANY years (as many as 50 years so I am told). How is it then that a company or individual can walk in and patent a known, text book technology as their own innovation? If it’s a technology described in 20 or 30 year old text books, does that not constitute prior art? Who is the patent office really serving when someone can patent a known and age old technology such as this? Shouldn’t someone have done research and found that this was not innovation, but simply a re-packaging of a very old way of doing things?Again, I am not against CK. In fact they have driven some of these technologies to the forefront of the lighting business, and for that, they have been rewarded with a very large market share, and will continue making a lot of money for their efforts. Do we – the lighting industry – have this huge debt to repay though? Do they “own” these technologies they’ve taken out of textbooks? Another example is their under water (pool lighting) patent which obviously covers another area where a technology (color changing pool lights) has been used for years. Should they also receive this monopoly because no one ever thought to patent something so obvious and well known?What the patent office have done is pretty much “Lock Out” some great companies from selling their products into our industry. I have personally been involved with a few European manufacturers who sell their products freely all over Europe, but are afraid (and in some cases have been threatened by CK) to sell into the US for fear they will be put out of business with a costly law suit or will be told they are no longer able to manufacture their great and innovative products. Products that have been designed by THEIR engineers, and using known technologies or in some cases NEW technologies created by their engineering staff. In fact, each of these people who I have spoken or worked with have NEVER even looked at a CK product. Why should we as an industry be deprived of freely choosing the products we use? Why should we be forced to deal with only one manufacturer? Simply because they laid claim to some age old text book information, and for whatever reason the Patent Office were too lazy to actually research and find prior art by the bookloads??? Perhaps I can patent the fact that wheels are Round… hmmm – I could make BILLIONS! Imagine Good Year, Firestone, Michelin and all the others scrambling to license my brilliant new invention! (or is it new??)I, for one am disgusted by the way this whole story has transpired. I do give credit to CK for having accomplished what they have in such a short time. Bravo! However, shame on CK for unfairly and unrightfully locking out very fun and innovative people from our market place.Hopefully – the efforts of people like Brett Kingstone of Supervision will make a difference. Brett has single handedly taken on CK through the courts who have so far completely ignored the law – and the spirit from which patents were created. A patent should protect inventors or innovators, not empower attorneys and promote unfair business practices through monopolies, or locking legitimate competitors from a lucrative new market.Like I said – I am no attorney, and these views are my own – so agree or not, that’s your choice. If you check the facts though, I am not sure how anyone could disagree. I am off my soapbox now…

Author: Marcel Fairbairn

Our expert sales team, collectively, have over 50 years experience in the sound, lighting, production and music industry.

7 thoughts on “CK vs the WORLD!

  1. Do you REALLY think SuperVision
    was going to be Mr. Nice and
    share there candy?.
    It is my personal opinion that
    it would have been coveted more
    with only POSSIBLY including the
    chosen/$$donors$$ once SuperVision
    took what they say does not belong
    to c/k. And Supervision would suddenly become the renegade scientist that shares free energy
    with the world???, come on!.

  2. I appreciate your views, seriously. I appreciate EVERYONE’s views… however, If you really want people to take your posts seriously, you should consider leaving your name when you post. And – by the way, as far as Supervision sharing anything I am not sure I fully understand… They are not trying to “take” anything. Supervision are working diligently to invalidate patents that, in their opinion (and I happen to agree) should have never been granted. Anyway, thanks again for the observation.

  3. I am having a bad hair day and
    do not want anyone to see me
    at the moment.
    From what I see, Supervision was/is
    not simply trying to invalidate
    color kinetics patents. As you know, they purchased patent(s) to
    secure the rights for themselves.
    They are not on a “Peaceful” mission and I think you are a bit
    naive to this.
    Anyway, just my thoughts. I am going to go try some new conditioner.

  4. I just wanted to leave some short comments on the CK issue.
    The company I work for is one of the pioneers in the LED industry in Europe. Yes, over a long period of time we felt the same anger about the fact that somebody owns a patent for a technology we developed for ourselves and by ourselves. In order to avoid legal trouble with CK, we left the US market untouched (except some very few deals I could not resist to take…). I have been talking to both companies, SV & CK, and I can only say that I respect both. It is out of question that CK’s business behaviour in the past was not really making too many friends and seeing some of the evidence that SV presented, I also believe that not all of CK’s activities in the past have been fair and correct. But I am also no lawyer and no judge. The society we live in has made rules and laws that sometimes seem not to be fair to everybody. Patent laws are maybe fair for 80% of the patent holders – I believe there are many owners of Patents who own them for no good reason. But until the law changes or the procedures of receiving a Patent will be adjusted to provide better protection to real inventors, we have to accept that the system sometimes fails. We have never claimed a Patent on the technology we developed for a simple reason – we considered it common sense. Maybe this was our mistake and the mistake of many more people in the industry. CK tried to register the Patent and it worked out for them, they got it. Have they been simply smarter? The latest development in the SV against CK Patent issue gives reason to CK. After all I expected this to happen. Besides the fact that CK protected their IP with partly unreasonable force and in a way that does not match my personal idea of business manner, what else can we honestly blame on them? Instead, we should blame the system that permits such opportunities. We shall make force to change the entire process in a way that helps avoiding people taking such chances. But nothing will ever be perfect. During the last years I had plenty of conversations with CK and with SV. Both companies earned my respect and I can’t say that any of them has been acting badly or unprofessional against me or our company. CK’s victory is a giant chance for them to prove their new business mentality and their openness to cooperate on a fair and professional business level. I know Bill Sims for being the right person to do so. Commenting the “anonymous blogger” – I agree that Brett Kingstone is a respectable and highly intelligent business person and that also he had business in his mind when he led the LED alliance against CK. He was certainly not buying a Patent from HE for charity reasons. His advantage over a period of time was that his licensing fees have been lower and less tough. After all, we earn money and doing so is hard enough those days. My suggestion is to accept the situation as it is and deal with it in a constructive way. Instead of pumping money into the accounts of lawyers we shall use it to develop new technologies and new exciting products. And as long as the CK licensing terms keep realistic and acceptable, we have to arrange ourselves with it. There are many more problems we have to deal with and we shall take the chances our industry has to offer instead of looking back in anger.

  5. Great points made. Back to the “Supervision Greed” theory, I still don’t see it the same way. This truly has been an “alliance” as it’s billed. One of my companies owns a licence with Supervision at the moment, and I can assure you that every dime we spend on this licence is put towards their legal costs which are enormous. The way the license is written, we are basically “free” if Supervision are ever able to win this battle. From that moment, we no longer pay any fees. They are not attempting to switch patents from CK to S Vision as is described by Anonymous. The patents that were purchased by S Vision were done so in order to help their cause in invalidating patents and proving prior art.

  6. Marcel,

    This is a very broad oversimplification, but what one of CK’s main patents covers is PWM control of RGB LED’s with network control, either Ethernet or DMX.

    Kingstone licensed the Belliveau patent because it discloses PWM control of RGB “light sources”. But apparently Kingstone didn’t purchase the Belliveau patent, and the court ruled that since he didn’t own it he had no basis to defend it.

    Robert Mokry

  7. Thanks Dr. Mokry for that. Good point on the Belliveau Patent. That was an oversight on my part. Thanks.

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