Comcast has urged a court to rule that a pair of agreements with MaxLinear remain in full force and that a no-sue clause in one of them shields Comcast from a separate suit filed by an entity that now owns MaxLinear patents.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

March 25, 2024

5 Min Read
Court gavel set atop a pile of money
(SOURCE: IVAN KMIT/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO)

Lawsuits pitting Comcast against chipmaker MaxLinear continue to slog through a New York court.

Comcast filed a third amended complaint in a New York court on March 20 alleging that MaxLinear breached its contracts with the cable operator by prematurely scuttling two agreements – including one that contains a critical no-sue clause – that are tied to the technical upkeep of millions of cable modems powered by MaxLinear silicon.

That case in New York is complicated by separate lawsuits filed against Comcast in California by Entropic Communications LLC (Entropic LLC). Entropic LLC alleges that Comcast is infringing on several patents related to Multimedia over Coax (MoCA), a technology that's largely been used to distribute video over home coax wires for whole-home DVRs. Entropic LLC, considered a non-practicing entity, acquired the MoCA patent portfolio from MaxLinear around March 2021.

In the latest version of Comcast's complaint, the operator is seeking several judgements:

  • That Comcast is entitled to a declaratory judgement that MaxLinear's attempt to terminate a vendor support agreement (VSA) violates the term of the VSA, meaning that the agreement remains in full effect until at least August 21, 2025. The VSA contains the no-sue clause.

  • That MaxLinear's Statement of Work (SOW) with Comcast is also valid and enforceable until at least May 23, 2024 – the one-year date since MaxLinear first gave written notice to Comcast about wanting to end the SOW.

  • That MaxLinear, via the VSA, effectively agreed to indemnify Comcast from all losses, damages, costs, expenses and attorneys' fees linked to Entropic LLC's lawsuit against Comcast. Comcast holds that MaxLinear sold the patents to Entropic LLC in an effort to void the no-sue clause and clear the way for Entropic LLC to sue Comcast. However, Comcast argues that the no-sue clause "travelled with the MaxLinear Patents and forecloses claims by Entropic as well."

  • In an alternative to the above item, Comcast wants the court to issue an order that MaxLinear breached the "implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing" by trying to deprive Comcast of its rights and benefits under the VSA, including its no-sue clause, and to award Comcast "for all the monetary damages to which Comcast is entitled by law."

Related:Comcast presses court to toss MaxLinear's counterclaims about FDX tech

Fight over scheduling

But it gets even more complicated.

Late last year, MaxLinear filed a series of counterclaims, including allegations that Comcast stole MaxLinear trade secrets linked to Full Duplex (FDX) DOCSIS technology, and then hired another chipmaker, Broadcom, to commercialize it. Comcast denies the claims, arguing that its engineers "independently created" FDX amplifier technology with another "trusted vendor," which happens to be Broadcom.

Related:MaxLinear: Comcast stole our FDX ideas

MaxLinear's counterclaims are creating a point of contention around scheduling. Comcast wants its original claims to be prioritized and for MaxLinear's counterclaims to be scheduled separately.

MaxLinear believes there's grounds for the discovery schedules for Comcast's original lawsuit and MaxLinear's counterclaims to be combined into a single schedule.

Comcast argues that MaxLinear is trying to delay matters with its "belated (and meritless) counterclaims." Comcast believes its case against MaxLinear should be "adjudicated expeditiously" as the operator tangles with Entropic LLC in a California court.

A wrench in the Entropic-Charter case

And yet there are more complications.

Entropic LLC's case against Comcast in California continues on. In February 2023, Entropic also filed separate but similar lawsuits against Charter Communications, Cox Communications, Dish Network and DirecTV that also focused on the patent portfolio that Entropic acquired from MaxLinear.

However, Charter and Entropic LLC settled their patent dispute late last year after Entropic moved for a summary judgement concerning a Charter defense focused on DOCSIS technology.

Related:Comcast sues MaxLinear for breach of contract

As spotted by Multichannel News, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is seeking to unseal the records in that case, arguing that keeping the details under seal is "improper" and "unjustified," and muddles what was actually determined by the court.

"The public version of Entropic's motion [for a summary judgement] is heavily redacted, making it hard to understand," the EFF noted in this blog post. "The legal issues in the case and their potential implications for the DOCSIS standard are a matter of public concern."

"However, based on the case law cited in the motion, it seems Entropic may have argued that Charter is not entitled to a license defense based on DOCSIS because the patents-in-suit are not standard-essential to DOCSIS," the EFF noted in a motion filed on March 20 that asks the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas Marshall Division to unseal the documents.

According to the EFF, the two key issues are what the DOCSIS license means by "licensed technology" as a matter of contract interpretation, and whether Charter has "plausibly shown any of the patents at issue fall within the meaning of 'Licensed Technology'."

While Entropic never moved to seal its motion nor provide a justification for sealing, "[e]very associated exhibit remains sealed," the EFF said. "The public version of Charter's objection sheds no new light on the two key issues that underlie the DOCSIS License defense … The docket in this case is replete with violations of the public right of access."

Citing meetings in January, the EFF said Entropic stated that it did not hold a view on whether the information should be sealed and that it won't take any action on it. According to the EFF's March 20 motion, Charter counsel told the EFF that the sealing was justified under a protective order.

"As such, EFF finds itself at an impasse and files this motion," the organization said.

Notably, a November 26, 2023, court filing in the Entropic LLC-Charter case said that MaxLinear signed an agreement with Charter to develop cable modems compatible with DOCSIS 4.0. That agreement was signed about three months after Entropic LLC purchased the asserted patents from MaxLinear.

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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