140 years after its invention, the Edison light bulb is having another moment. Now Edison-style bulbs are the center of a new lawsuit.
The University of California Santa Barbara is suing five major retailers — Walmart, Target (TGT), Amazon (AMZN), Ikea and Bed Bath & Beyond — for violating its patents on “filament” LED light bulbs. The bulbs are designed to look like the some of the original light bulbs produced by inventor Thomas Edison.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in a Los Angeles federal court, UCSB demands the retailers pay it unspecified royalties on future sales of “filament” light bulbs, and it seeks compensation for past sales of the bulbs that allegedly infringed upon their patents.
UCSB filed a similar complaint with the International Trade Commission in Washington, in which it seeks a review of the alleged patent violations. The ITC could prevent overseas manufacturers from importing the light bulbs to the United States, although it’s unclear whether the commission will issue such a ban.
In the court filings, the university expects sales for the Edison bulbs to exceed $1 billion this year. The lawsuit said manufacturers stole their patented technology with “utter disregard” for their rights.
The university said in its complaint that it seeks to protect “the reinvention of the light bulb by a Nobel laureate-led team,” and sales of the LED bulbs from overseas manufacturers represent an “existential threat to university technology.”
UC Santa Barbara holds several patents for filament-style LED technology. The bulbs have an antique aesthetic but are much more energy efficient than the original Edison bulbs.
An Ikea spokesperson told CNN Business the company is looking into the lawsuit. “It would be premature to offer further comment at this time without having all pertinent information,” the company said.
The other four retailers didn’t immediately return request for comment.