Video services

Arris Throws Book at Harmonic

Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) has filed suit against Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT), alleging that Harmonic's StreamLiner 3000 video server infringes on four patents that describe methods for processing and transmitting digital video.

Arris is seeking an undisclosed amount of cash compensation and a court order to stop further alleged patent infringement, according to Bloomberg. Arris filed the suit on April 19 but has not yet served it, suggesting that the two companies may attempt to negotiate a settlement.

"We very much would like to resolve this in an amicable manner," Arris spokesman Alex Swann told Light Reading Cable. Harmonic amicably declined to comment.

The four Arris-owned patents in question are:

  • 6,112,226 -- Method and apparatus for concurrently encoding and tagging digital information for allowing non-sequential access during playback
  • 5,659,539 -- Method and apparatus for frame accurate access of digital audio-visual information
  • 5,864,682 -- Method and apparatus for frame accurate access of digital audio-visual information
  • 6,119,154 -- Method and apparatus for non-sequential access to an in-progress video feed

The suit, filed with the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, comes almost four years after Harmonic got into the video server game by buying the video-on-demand (VoD) assets of Entone Inc. for $45 million. It also comes as Harmonic continues to gain VoD traction overseas, notching deals with China's Changzhi Municipal Radio, Film & TV Bureau; Norway's Altibox AS; and Germany's Kabel BW GmbH & Co. (See Harmonic Spends $45M on Entone VOD-Ware.)

Harmonic and Arris also make competing edge QAM products.

Arris entered the video server market in a roundabout way, via its purchase of C-COR Inc., which was then the proud owner of VoD gear and software it originally obtained from nCUBE Corp. The patents tied to the case originated with Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), which later transferred them to nCUBE. The patents were also linked to a protracted fight between nCube and SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC). (See Arris Bids $730M for C-COR and C-COR Acquires nCUBE.)

In Arris's case, the patents link to its line of older "origin" n5-series servers. Arris also resells and repackages a newer line of Flash-based servers and video switches developed by Verivue Inc. , a startup helmed by former Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) exec Jim Dolce, but those products aren't involved in this fight. (See Arris Pumps Up Video With Dolce's Verivue .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:38:44 PM
re: Arris Throws Book at Harmonic

This lawsuit put me in the WayBackMachine for a moment, stirring up memories of the nCube-SeaChange lawsuit and subsequent counter suits that kept the trade journalists busy, but didn't appear to accomplish much else (well, okay, the lawyers probably made out too).

But I find it strange that this is coming up now, since Harmonic has had this product on the books for at least a couple of years. HLIT's servers haven't made a huge dent on the US cable industry, but they have been making some decent progress overseas based on HLIT's public deployment announcements, so perhaps Arris wants to draft off that and try to get a piece of that action. Any others out there that care to speculate on some key reasons why Arris has waited until now to go after these guys? JB

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:38:44 PM
re: Arris Throws Book at Harmonic



Just a correction (sort of) for you.  Patents are country (and sometimes region) specific.  So, having and suing over a US patent is only good in the US.  So, if Harmonic is smart they can thumb their nose of any International business (for example have it made overseas and never enter the US).




Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:38:43 PM
re: Arris Throws Book at Harmonic So you're saying they can simply sidestep all (or perhaps a portion) of this because they happen to be selling some of this stuff outside the US? They are selling some inside the US and they are HQ'd in the US, so i don't see how that argument would stand up. Then again, it does appear that Arris really want to negotiate a peace here, so they may be thinking along the lines you're suggesting here. Any patent lawyers in the house? JB
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:38:42 PM
re: Arris Throws Book at Harmonic


You set up a subsidiary and "build" the product in that sub outside the US.  The US entity is then no longer responsible for it.  Suing over a US patent only makes sense if a lot of sales are in the US.  If it ends up being a lot of money, they can use geography to sidestep the whole thing.

Your comment was the bulk of the sales of the product were outside the US.  The US patent has no validity in any of those countries, you would have to obtain patent protection in those countries to make it meaningful.

So, the US sales could definitely be impacted but if Harmonic isn't really doing any business here on the product then who cares.  There is basically no money in it.

So, let me use a specific example.  You can not enforce a US Patent in England.  You can only enforce a UK patent there.  If you have a UK patent on something, it doesn't matter in the US.  The only case where any of that matters might be if you have competing patents and can try to dispute who really owns the technology based on various filing dates.

Now, the suit can claim all kinds of past grievence but easy to get around future infringement.



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