Here’s an example of just one of a number of Edison-style LED bulbs sold on Amazon.
Image: Amazon

Edison-style LED bulbs have become a real hit, and often seen in places like trendy restaurants and bars. Like typical LED bulbs, these bulbs offer increased energy efficiency and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs while maintaining a stylish old-world appearance.

However, the continued availability of these LED Edison bulbs could be in question now that U.C. Santa Barbara is launching a “first-of-its-kind direct patent enforcement campaign” against some of the biggest LED Edison bulb makers including Amazon, Walmart, Target, Ikea, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

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The patent infringement lawsuit, which has been filed on behalf of U.C Santa Barbara by law firm Nixon Peabody claims that researchers at the university spent years developing alternatives to incandescent light bulbs, and that many of the “vintage” or “Edison” bulbs featuring exposed LED filaments available today are based on unauthorized designs invented by the school.

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U.C. Santa Barbara claims that just in 2019, sales of Edison-style LED bulbs are expected to top $1 billion, and that because of unsuccessful efforts in the past to properly license its tech, U.C. Santa Barbara is now taking “more aggressive action.”

However, even if major light bulb manufacturers are found to have infringed on UCSB’s patents, it’s unlikely that vintage LED bulbs will disappear from the market completely. Instead, UCSB will seek “the payment of reasonable royalty” while also establishing patent licenses for use in future products.

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In short, U.C. Santa Barbara believes it invented those cool vintage bulbs you see everywhere, and now it wants its money. So if you were thinking about outfitting your home with a bunch of sweet new power-saving vintage bulbs, you might want to put in a big order before their prices go up.