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Cree Pursues Claims Against Feit Electric Over Energy Star and Advertising Claims

Jan. 23, 2015
The complaint is based on a series of product tests conducted by Cree, in which the company says it found that certain Feit LED bulbs that carry the Energy Star label allegedly fail critical performance requirements including omnidirectional light distribution.

Cree, Inc., Durham, N.C., filed intellectual property and false-advertising complaints against Feit Electric Co., Pico Rivera, Calif., and its Taiwanese supplier, Unity Opto Technology Co., Ltd. The complaints alleged that competing LED lighting manufacturer Feit engaged in “false and misleading advertising claims,” specifically that they say their products meet specifications required by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, and that the defendants infringed 10 of Cree’s lighting-related patents.

Calls to Feit Electric executives were not returned by press time.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, where Cree has had a substantial presence since its acquisition of Ruud Lighting in 2011, ask the ITC and the court to order the offending companies to ban specified products from entry into the United States and to issue a cease and desist order to stop selling the LED bulbs in the U.S. The complaint further asserts that this infringing advertising gives the offending companies an unfair advantage and discourages development of new products.

“Cree fully supports competition, but it should be fair competition,” said Chuck Swoboda, Cree chairman and CEO, in a press release announcing the complaints. “We have invested nearly $1 billion in R&D over the past 10 years to create fundamental technology that has enabled the LED lighting revolution. With more than 4,000 issued patents, we have an obligation to act to protect our shareholders and our licensing partners.”

Cree says that it was the first to develop omnidirectional optics to inexpensively replicate an incandescent bulb’s output and appearance. According to Cree, this technology enabled the company to introduce the first sub-$10 LED light bulb in the United States. Omnidirectional light distribution is part of the Energy Star requirements for general-purpose LED lamps, and it’s this criterion that Cree alleges Feit Electric’s lamps fail to meet.

The complaint is based on a series of product tests conducted by Cree, in which the company says it found that certain Feit LED bulbs that carry the Energy Star label allegedly fail critical performance requirements including omnidirectional light distribution. “Therefore, consumers are buying LED bulbs with the Energy Star label, that do not perform as promised.”

Cree points out that its licensing program, which currently has more than 20 licensing partners, allows other companies to use its proprietary technology.