February 23, 2024
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Kmart sued for violating UCSB patent on LED bulbs


A South Korean semiconductor company recently sued Kmart for allegedly violating a UC Santa Barbara professor’s patent on LED light bulbs.

Seoul Semiconductor sued Kmart Corp. in federal court in Los Angeles Sept. 9 for allegedly violating several patents, including one owned by UCSB Professor Shuji Nakamura.

The lawsuit accuses Kmart of making, using, importing and selling Kodak branded LED light bulbs made by Culver City-based Spotlite USA Corp. even though Kmart allegedly did not have authority to do so. Nakamura is a consultant of  Seoul Semiconductor, which licenses one of the allegedly infringed patents from UCSB.

A January patent filed by the Regents of the University of California for LED technology developed by Nakamura and his UCSB colleague Steve DenBaars is one of the eight patents the company alleges Kmart violated. Filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office on Jan. 19, the patent covers highly efficient LED light bulbs that use phosphors to change color.

“Seoul has invested tremendous resources for many years in developing its intellectual property so that it can provide innovative technology to the LED market,” Jennifer Jonak, outside counsel for Seoul Semiconductors, told the Business Times. “In order to have fair market competition, companies need to respect each other’s intellectual property. Seoul will take actions necessary to deter such infringement as well as that of its licensing partners, like the Regents of the University of California.”

In 2014, Nakamura won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the blue LED. He left Japan in 2000 to join the UCSB faculty and founded LED manufacturer Soraa in 2008.

Jonak said decisions on what products to manufacture start with retailers who tell suppliers what to make. Stamping out patent infringement overseas can be a bit like playing whack-a-mole, so the company wants to be aggressive with this suit, she said.

A Kmart representative did not return calls seeking comment on the suit.

Seoul Semiconductor asked the court to stop Kmart from making and selling the products and award compensation for damages incurred by the company. The lawsuit also demands that Kmart remove the products and stop importation of the devices.

Sherylle Mills Englander, director of UCSB’s Office of Technology & Industry Alliances, previously told the Business Times the school tries to create a culture that fosters innovation for its professors, students and grad students. Mills Englander said the university stands by its licensees.

“Our licensees expend considerable efforts and resources to develop products based on UCSB’s intellectual property,” Mills Englander said. “UCSB stands by our licensees in their efforts to assure that their investments and UCSB’s intellectual property are respected in the marketplace.”

Premium Capital files for bankruptcy

Premium Capital LLC, which operates out of 5716 Corsa Ave. in Westlake Village, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in federal bankruptcy court in Santa Barbara on Sept. 19.

In court filings, the company lists debts of $13.4 million. Six properties listed in the filings show a total value of $3.3 million. A property in Folsom is listed as the most expensive with a value of $600,000. A San Jose property is also valued at $575,000.

In all, 34 creditors are listed including Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Bank of America and Chase. Affiliated Funding Corp., OCWEN Loan Servicing and Nationstar Mortgage in Ventura, along with Quality Loan Service Corp., are listed as the five creditors within the region.

Steven Rogers is named as the manager of the company, with a 90 percent stake. Audry Gann, who’s listed as a secretary, owns the other 10 percent. Rogers did not list an attorney.

Santa Barbara policeman guilty of workers’ comp fraud

A former Santa Barbara police officer pleaded guilty to four counts of felony workers’ compensation fraud Sept. 23.

Jacob Finerty, 28, of Hesperia, claimed to have injured his lower back in an on-duty traffic accident. Around the same time, prosecutors said, Finerty was seen lifting heavy weights and participating in strength and wrestling competitions, which were videotaped and photographed and used as evidence during his trial.

Prosecutors said Finerty misrepresented his injuries. A judge sentenced Finerty to 120 days in jail, five years of probation and ordered him to pay back $115,669.86 in restitution.

Judge rules that Los Angeles Rams must give refunds

The Los Angeles Rams may lose out on millions of dollars in profits from personal seat licenses at their new Inglewood stadium because of a Sept. 21 ruling.

A federal judge in St. Louis ruled the Agoura Hills-based football team must refund money to some fans who purchased licenses that enable them to buy season tickets, during the team’s two decades in St. Louis.

Other fans may be entitled to buy seats for games in LA using personal seat licenses the judge ordered to be transferred to the Rams’ new stadium.

• Contact Philip Joens at pjoens@pacbiztimes.com.