Tony Reale from NextWaveDV has no problems speaking up against LitePanels recent filing to block the import of LED lighting. He might be seen as a bit biased with his research into video lighting products, but there's literally thousands of people who totally agree with him (like myself).
It's not about some secret high-tech million dollar R&D project that's been hijacked and stolen. What Tony better explains in this video is that the patents filed are based on the 'use of LED lights in Photo and Video'. I'm no legal expert, but that pretty much sounds like absolutely no other LED lights, regardless of it's origin, have the rights to be used for anything photo or video related (unless it be LitePanels). LitePanels is a young (not even a teenager) company founded around 2005. What's sad is that this filing would even effect highly respected Lighting companies that have been providing quality lights to the film industry for decades like Arri (since 1917) and Mole Richardson.
Don't think they can get away with this? Here's a snippet in which LitePanels sued Sony and Sony settled. Let's take a look at what was infringed.
Litepanels sued Dot Line Corp. (Dot Line) and Infocus Camera & Imaging, LLC (ICI) in federal court in Tyler, Texas, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,948,823 (’823 Patent) and 7,604,361 (’361 Patent) (litepanels_complaint.pdf).
The ’823 Patent is entitled “Wide area lighting apparatus and effects system” and is directed to a camera mountable lighting frame (302) having multiple lamp segments (306) arranged in a radial pattern around a center hole (303). Each lamp segment 306 comprises a plurality of LEDs (305).
The portable frame could be circular (as picture above) or rectangular. When the portable frame is mounted to a movable camera, the frame follows the movements of the camera.
The ’361 Patent is a continuation-in-part of the ’823 Patent and is entitled “Versatile lighting apparatus and associated kit.” It is directed to an LED light panel with a self-contained battery unit that provides power to the light elements but not to the camera.
So it sounds like LitePanels has a bit of bullying experience in this area, and has successfully sued large companies like Sony with ease. Worried now?
If you read the patents that have been violated carefully, there's nothing very high tech. Here's the patents that were filed against Sony.
Patent 6948823: A lighting effects system comprises an arrangement of lamp elements, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or other light elements, on a panel or frame. The panel or frame may be relatively lightweight, and may include one or more circuit boards for direct mounting of the lamp elements. The panel or frame may have an opening through which a camera can view. A mounting bracket and assembly may be used for attaching the panel or frame to a camera. The lamp elements may be electronically controllable so as to provide differing intensity levels, collectively, individually, or in designated groups, and may be strobed, dimmed or otherwise controlled according to manually selected or programmable patterns. Different color lamp elements may be mounted on the same panel/frame, and, in particular, daylight and tungsten colored lamp elements may be mounted on the same panel/frame and their relative intensities selectively controlled by control circuitry.
Patent 7604361: A lighting apparatus comprises a light panel having a panel frame, and a plurality of LEDs or other light elements secured to the panel frame. A self-contained battery unit securably attaches to the outside of the panel frame. The light panel may have a dimmer switch, and may also be capable of receiving power from a source other than the self-contained battery unit. The lighting apparatus can be mounted to a camera or a stand through adapters. Diffusion lenses or color gels can be integrated with or detachable from the light panel. The lighting apparatus may conveniently be provided in the form of a kit, with one or more of a light panel, self-contained battery unit, compact stand, connecting cable(s), adapter(s), lenses or color gels, and so on, provided in a single package.
I agree with most professionals working in the field that LitePanels creates high quality products, and the results speak for themselves. True professionals who rely on quality will always use such tools. I'll admit that if your next film budget allows you to bring LitePanel products on, you would be completely satisfied. Of course, I don't agree that they should have the complete rights to 'all use of LED lighting for anything Photo and Video related'.
So now that you're up to speed, what can you do about it? Well if you don't believe that 'one young company' should own all the rights to using LED lighting for anything photo and video related here's what you can do. I understand we all live busy lives, but without even breaking a sweat or handwriting documents, the easiest thing to do is to twitter this article, facebook it, Google Plus it, just get the word out. When you wake up the next morning, twitter it again.
Here's another interesting thought. Now I love LitePanels equipment, and i've probably made a few testimonial videos and blog articles about how great they are. But after this whole recent filing from LitePanels, I'm curious about what type of comments there has been from the many popular filmmakers currently being used to promote Litepanels.