By Eric Schweibenz
On January 23, 2012, Neptun Light, Inc. and Andrzej Bobel of Lake Forest, Illinois (collectively, “Neptun”) filed a complaint requesting that the ITC commence an investigation pursuant to Section 337.

The complaint alleges that the following entities (collectively, the “Proposed Respondents”) unlawfully import into the U.S., sell for importation, and/or sell within the U.S. after importation certain dimmable compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and products containing same that infringe one or more claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,434,480 (“the ‘480 patent”) and 8,035,318 (“the ‘318 patent”):

  • SK America, Inc. d/b/a/ Maxlite of Fairfield, New Jersey

  • U Lighting America Inc. of San Jose, California

  • Golden U Lighting Manufacturing (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd. of China

  • Feit Electric Company, Inc. of Pico Rivera, California

  • General Electric Company of Fairfield, Connecticut

  • Xiamen Topstar Lighting Co. Ltd. of China

  • Technical Consumer Products, Inc. of Aurora, Ohio

  • TCP China of China

  • TCP (Shanghai) Tiancanbao Lighting Electrical Appliance Co., Ltd. of China

  • Shanghai Jensing Electron Electrical Equipment Co., Ltd. of China

  • Shanghai Qiangling Electronics Co. Ltd. of China

  • Zhejiang Qiang Ling Electronic Co. Ltd. of China

According to the complaint, the ‘480 patent is directed to “circuitry for electronic ballasts that power dimmable CFLs with the ballasts providing a high power factor and low harmonic distortion” which allows for improved dimmable CFL performance.  The ‘318 patent is directed to “an electronic ballast for enabling a full range of dimming of a CFL.”  Both patents address deficiencies in ballast circuitry that cause visible flicker during the dimming operation in dimmable CFLs.

The complaint identifies Mr. Bobel as the inventor of the ‘480 and ‘318 patents and the founder, CEO and chief engineer of Neptun, a “manufacturer of energy conservation lighting products such as LED, induction and compact fluorescent, including dimmable CFLs … designed for residential, commercial, outdoor and other infrastructure lighting applications.”  The complaint defines SK America, Inc. d/b/a/ Maxlite, U Lighting America, Inc., Feit Electric Company, Inc., General Electric Company, and Technical Consumer Products, Inc. as importers, distributors and/or sellers of infringing dimmable CFLs manufactured abroad, namely in China.  The complaint also defines Golden U Lighting Manufacturing (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd., Xiamen Topstar Lighting Co. Ltd., TCP-China, TCP (Shanghai) Tiancanbao Lighting Electrical Appliance Co., Ltd., Shanghai Jensing Electron Electrical Equipment Co., Ltd., Shanghai Qiangling Electronics Co. Ltd., and Zhejiang Qiang Ling Electronic Co. Ltd. as manufacturers of infringing dimmable CFLs in China.

Regarding the technical prong of domestic industry requirement, Neptun asserts that it is in the business of developing, designing and manufacturing in the U.S. dimmable CFLs which practice the ‘480 and ‘318 patents, such as Neptun’s dimmable CFL R30 product.  With respect to the economic prong, Neptun points to substantial investments in labor, capital, research and development, and marketing for over 15 different models of dimmable CFLs that it currently sells in the United States.  Neptune also adds that not only is it is a licensee of the ‘480 patent, but the ‘480 patent has been licensed to another dimmable CFL manufacturer.

With respect to potential remedy, the complaint asks the Commission to issue permanent cease and desist orders and a permanent limited exclusion order forbidding entry into the U.S. of all infringing dimmable CFLs that are manufactured, imported or sold for importation by or on behalf of the Proposed Respondents.