United States: Luminara And Liown Burn Down The House: A Customer’s Patent Battle To Remember (Video Content)

Last Updated: April 8 2015
Article by Justin F. McNaughton

Luminara and Liown have been fighting for years.  A couple weeks ago, Liown upped the stakes by now suing QVC, Inc., Darice, Inc., Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc., Williams-Sonoma Stores, Inc., Costco Wholesale Corporation, PC, Treasures, Inc., One Kings Lane, Inc., and Brookstone Stores, Inc. as well.

According to a recent article in the Star Tribune, a Minnesota newspaper, Candella acquired the rights to produce artificial candles (with flickering artificial flames) back in the 2008.  In 2010, Candella began negotiating with Liown Electronics to manufacture the candles in China, and the two parties signed an agreement in March 2010.  Reportedly, the agreement gave Liown the right to distribute and sell the product in China.  Candella later merged with Luminara.

All the candlelit romance couldn't last, and Candella soon split with Liown.  Liown kept right on manufacturing and a couple years later filed for patents on a flameless candle.

So fast forward 5 years and the roles have reversed with the Chinese manufacturer Liown now suing its former customer who introduced it to LED candles in the first place!  How does this crap happen?  More importantly, what can you do to try to stop it from happening to you?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Have a non-compete clause in your supply agreement that survives termination for year or so after your agreement ends
  2. If your product is somewhat unique, consider an exclusive supply agreement so your manufacturer doesn't already have existing customers when you split
  3. Have an intellectual property assignment in your supply agreement so that you own all improvements – even if they were made by your supplier
  4. Consider requiring your supplier to tell you when it files a patent application during the term of your agreement and for a year or so after it ends
  5. Be absolutely certain you control everything about your trademarks in the country where your manufacturer is located (although this would not have helped here)
  6. Protect your own product updates with patents so that you continue to block competitors from entering your space
  7. Have someone try to design around your patents to figure out where the holes are (and potentially improve your own products)

As a customer, if you really just need fake fire in your house, consider the following cheaper alternative to this patented candle mess:


P.S.  Some of you might have been wondering how Liown got a patent on a flameless candle when Candella had been making these for so long.  Below is the first claim (one of the broader claims) of Liown's patent 8,926,137 patent:

Claim 1: An electronic candle comprising:

an outer shell shaped, in appearance, like a wax candle and having a top surface intersecting with at least one side wall, the top surface comprising a through hole extending between an interior of the outer shell and exterior of the outer shell;

a flame sheet divided by a through hole, extending from one side of the flame sheet to the other, into a top portion and a bottom portion, the top portion shaped, in appearance, to substantially resemble the shape of a flame when viewed from at least one perspective, and the bottom portion having a magnet positioned at or near a lower end thereof opposite the top portion;

a support rod within or adjacent the through hole of the top surface and extending through the through hole of the flame sheet, supporting the flame sheet thereon such that the top portion of the flame sheet extends through the through hole of the top surface and at least a portion of the top portion of the flame sheet is exposed to the exterior of the outer shell, and such that the bottom portion of the flame sheet is beneath the support rod and within the outer shell, wherein the flame sheet is movable relative to the support rod;

a coil positioned near the magnet of the flame sheet and energized by an electronic control circuit to produce a changing magnetic field interacting with the magnet of the flame sheet, thereby causing movement of the flame sheet;

a battery compartment electrically connected with the control circuit and configured to receive one or more batteries for powering the control circuit;

and a light-emitting element contained entirely within the interior of the outer shell and positioned such that an outgoing direction of a light from the light-emitting element is projected from within the interior of the outer shell, through the through hole of the top surface of the outer shell, and onto at least one surface of the top portion of the flame sheet that is exterior to the outer shell, thereby illuminating the flame sheet from a light source external to the flame sheet.

As you may recall, in order to infringe a patent a product must have every element (i.e., an important short phrase) of at least one claim of the patent being asserted.  I did not count up the number of elements, but assuming at least one per line above there are a minimum of 26 different elements to this claim.  This means that a product must have each of these 26 elements in order to infringe claim 1.  Assume now that there are approximately 1,000,000 words in the English language (forgive me if some of them are never considered important).    Now based on my blind faith in a calculator I found at StatTrek.com, there are about 2.46E129 (2 followed by 129 zeros) possible combinations of these elements.  Questionable math aside, it means these claims are pretty narrow because a product would require so many elements to infringe, which is how Liown likely got this claim allowed.  Note: Please do not rely on the math in this post . . . .

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Justin F. McNaughton
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.