Lutron Sues Leviton Over RF Lighting Controls


Senior Member
Lutron is suing Leviton for infringing on patents that have to do with wall-box dimmers, RF transceivers in a junction box, and lighting control with two-way status/feedback.

The lawsuit is no surprise, really. It was only a matter of time. Apparently, that time was when Leviton finally shipped its two-way Vizia RF lighting control system based on the Z-Wave mesh-networking wireless protocol.

The alleged infringement would also apply to Monster Cable, which is OEMing the products for its IlluminEssence line of lighting controls.
read the full article at
I didn't want to mess up the nice formatting, links & pictures.
Posted by Julie Jacobson on Mar 4 2007 @ 10:37 PM
Very interesting, thanks for posting this. I think it may throw some light on what Smarthome has done with Insteon. Some of their decisions seem be designed to avoid Lutron legal trouble. No RF in the box, for example. Combination of on-off and dimming in the same button, peer to peer protocol etc.
Sounds like they were waiting for a big player to enter the game so they can settle for the most $$$.
You suppose that action will reduce the price of RF-based lighting controls any time soon? Yeah right... He who pays the most lawyers, wins.
I went to the ADI Expo in Baltimore today and ran into some Leviton reps. No news from them about the law suit but they did have their entire current line on display plus some handouts of devices that are not on their website. Nothing really spectacular tho. Just differnt version of their existing switches as far as I can tell.
AutomatedOutlet said:
No, the lawyers win!
This needs to be added to the list that includes death and taxes.

CE Pro only got this partially right. The list of complaints in the suit include standard Acenti and Vizia dimmers as well as the Vizia RF dimmers both patent and trademark infringement.

Also included is at least one model of Power Extenders (PE100-10W) is specifically called out. This specific patent expires on April 21, 2007 so they're getting this complaint in just under the wire. BTW this patent is the one described by CE Pro as "Phase coupler" technology.

And back to Martin's comment, eleven lawyers from four firms signed the complaint.

George West
Here is a comment from Zensys of the lawsuit:

Statement by Zensys on the Lutron/Leviton Lawsuit
(Mar 7, 2007)
Zensys is aware of the lawsuit filed by Lutron earlier this week 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.

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.

Here is the URL:
I think Zensys' response is appropriate. I hate to see this little legal tangle cast a shadow over home automation as a whole.

As for the root issue: damned attorneys.

Of course, there's enough blame to spread around. I've seen some pretty liberal patents approved by the USPO, patents that looked to me as so much a copy of prior works that a patent should have never been awarded in the first place.

But Patent Office rules are governed by patent law. Patent law is enacted by Congress. And a decent percentage of Congresspeople have legal training or backgrounds.

I guess it all comes full-circle. Damned attorneys!

Ok, my two cents (although probably not worth that much):

Though it may seem anti-competitive, I feel that the Lutron patents are perfectly valid.

They were developed in the early '90s, for god sake. Who else was willing to invest that much money in home automation back then? Leviton was simply buying into X10. What Lutron came up with was truly revolutionary, and had higher reliability in the '90s then most of the newer technologies have today. A true measure of the innovation is that it took over ten years for someone to finally infringe.

If it is any consolation, Lutron is paying a price for being early: Assuming their patents are only good for 17 years, they will expire in approximately five more years.

I may be biased, since I depend on patents to protect my investments. However, I agree with the disparaging remarks about the attorneys. I write most of my patents myself; I couldn't afford them otherwise.
I'm thankful I went the INSTEON route, seems like these guys did their homework. Before I switched over from my X-10 stuff I read through their white paper... good stuff, has everything you would ever want to know. If anyone can point me to the same for the other competing technologies, I would greatly appreciate the link/s.

After seeing the law suit write-up in CEPro, I went back and did some digging. IMHO, I think the SmartLab's guys (or girls?) dodged the bullet. They don't get status back when a switch triggers a scene, and the scene trigger does not contain any device specific info, which I believe is one of the complaints. They also don't use RF in the dimmer (another complaint)

I am sure this will probably have the whole industry re-thinking things.

I agree with the legal views here... Anyone know the difference between a snake in the road and a lawyer in the road?

skid marks in front of the snake.
Marty said:
They also don't use RF in the dimmer (another complaint)
This is true today, but I wonder if a threat of a lawsuit from Lutron prevented or delayed SmartHome from rolling out RF into the switches? Insteon v3 is a common rumor/assumption that will have RF in the keypads to allow better support of RF devices.
What they need to do is get around the legal system. Make some kind of plugin that enables the status being transmitted but do not put it in the product. Then get some chinese / hong kong company to sell this plugin. Laws and patents are made to be bypassed. That is what capitalism is about. The patent Lutron has is too broad and is NOT an invention. Its like patenting a doorbell. Push a button on the front door and a notification is passed to a device that makes noise. I hate that the legal system is replacing hard work and free enterprise. Only reason I cannot ever vote Democrat is because they make lawyers wealthy. (ie John Edwards suing a company making pool drains for draining water and becoming so rich he has nothing better to do than run for pres.)

Tombo said:
The patent Lutron has is too broad and is NOT an invention.
Tom, I would respectfully disagree.

Having read those patents, I do not see how they wouldn't qualify. They are very specific.

Remember, you cannot patent and idea or concept. You can only patent the implementation of that idea or concept. You have to make it work, and making an RF light-switch in the early '90s was no trivial task.

Its like patenting a doorbell.
Did you know that the original "electric" doorbell was patented? I just did a quick patent search at the USPTO website, and found over a hundred patents for various doorbells since 1974.