Lutron Sues Crestron, 3 Dealers for Patent Infringement on Lighting Controls
Lutron claims Crestron's ZigBee-based infiNET products and other lighting controls infringe on three patents; will Crestron settle as did Cooper, Leviton, Vantage and Control4?
Lutron Electronics Co., Inc., has sued Crestron Electronics, Inc., and three Crestron dealers for allegedly infringing on three lighting-control patents.
Lutron is one of the largest manufacturers of lighting controls in the country. Crestron is arguably the largest manufacturer of home automation systems; lighting control is a relative newcomer to the company’s product line.
Both Crestron and Lutron declined to comment for this article.
The claim against Crestron, case no. 2:09-cv-707 was filed in the Utah District Court on August 10, 2009.
Why did Lutron file in Utah if it is headquartered Coopersburg, Pa., and Crestron is based in Rockleigh, N.J.? And why go after three random Crestron dealers? We’ll get to that on page 2.
Lutron’s latest salvo follows three other high-profile patent-infringement suits—against Vantage Controls (now Vantage/Legrand), Leviton and Control4, all of which settled out of court. A fourth company, Cooper Wiring Devices, licensed Lutron technology outside of the courts.
In this case, Lutron accuses Crestron, et al, of “unlawful and unabashed copying” of the intellectual property in these three patents:
- 5,982,103 (‘103 patent): Compact radio frequency transmitting and receiving antenna and control device employing same)
- 5,905,442 (‘442 patent): Method and apparatus for controlling and determining the status of electrical devices from remote locations
- 5,949,200 (‘200 patent): Wall mountable control system with virtually unlimited zone capacity
Patents: Two-Way RF Lighting
Basically, the ‘103 and ‘442 patents deal with the two-way capabilities of RF-based lighting controls, i.e., the ability to control remotely – and wirelessly – a system of dimmers and switches, and to determine remotely the status (on/dimmed/off) of the devices via RF.
Lutron says these patents reflect how Lutron overcame some “problematic obstacles” of two-way RF lighting:
- Unfriendly electromagnetic environment presented by the standard dimmer switch and metal junction boxes, which make for noisy communications
- Lack of a neutral wire in older homes (solved with a relatively low-power RF transmitter)
Patents ‘103 and ‘442 are embodied in Lutron’s groundbreaking RadioRa system, introduced in 1996, as well as subsequent RF-based lighting control systems.
In its filing, Lutron cites Crestron’s infiNET ZigBee-enabled lighting controls as infringing products, but notes that the suit is not limited to that line.
Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at email@example.com
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