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Lutron Accuses Leviton of Patent Infringement

March 2007 By Joe Paone
Lutron Electronics filed complaints against Leviton Manufacturing with the International Trade Commission (ITC) and in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The complaints allege that Leviton has infringed Lutron patents “covering a wide spectrum of proprietary Lutron lighting control and wireless technology and has sold products made to look like Lutron’s popular Maestro dimmers,” said Lutron in a statement.

Leviton products cited for infringement include certain Vizia and Acenti dimmers, as well as the IlluminEssence dimmer and switch which Leviton makes exclusively for Monster Central Control Systems.

In the ITC complaint, Lutron charges that Leviton is importing products made in Mexico and China into the U.S. that infringe U.S. Patent No. 5,637,930 (“Wall-Mountable Switch & Dimmer”), U.S. Patent No. 5,248,919 (“Lighting Control Device”), U.S. Patent No. 5,982,103 (“Compact Radio Frequency Transmitting and Receiving Antenna and Control Device Employing Same”) and U.S. Patent No. 5,905,442 (“Method and Apparatus for Controlling and Determining the Status of Electrical Devices from Remote Locations”). The patents “protect a variety of Lutron dimmers and switches, including lighting control systems that wirelessly communicate,” said Lutron.

In federal court, Lutron requests that Leviton not only “be enjoined from further infringement” of those four patents but also that Leviton be ordered to pay damages for willful infringement of those patents, as well as U.S. Patent No. 4,797,599 (“Power Control Circuit with Phase Controlled Signal Input”). Lutron also claims in the suit that Leviton “has engaged in other forms of infringement of Lutron’s intellectual property and in other forms of unfair competition,” according to Lutron.

“We are aware of Lutron’s filings,” Leviton spokesperson Janet Bazuro told CustomRetailer. “This attack came with no warning or prior communication by Lutron that they had concerns with our products. We obviously will have our lawyers look very carefully at the allegations and respond accordingly. Meanwhile, we only note that we take our position as an industry leader very seriously and we do not willfully infringe on any companies’ patents.”

Zensys, maker of Z-Wave wireless control technology, stressed in a statement that the lawsuit does not involve Leviton’s implementation of Z-Wave.

“Zensys is aware of the lawsuit filed by Lutron regarding Leviton’s use of RF lighting controls, but we believe there is significant confusion in the marketplace—and misinformation in the press—about what this means for Z-Wave,” read the statement. “The lawsuit does not apply to Z-Wave technology itself, but rather how lighting products are designed and operated, which is completely independent of what RF communication technology is used. Since this is a pending legal matter, we are unable to publicly comment any further or provide any details to this matter.”

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