The Comcast-MaxLinear-Entropic legal saga just got a bit more complicated

A New York federal court dismissed Comcast's attempt to go after MaxLinear and Entropic LLC in an amended, unified lawsuit. To remedy that, Comcast has filed a separate lawsuit against Entropic in a New York state court.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

November 17, 2023

5 Min Read
Court gavel set atop a pile of money

When we last visited the legal battle underway between Comcast, MaxLinear and Entropic Communications LLC (Entropic LLC) last month, Comcast altered a complaint that aimed to place both MaxLinear and Entropic LLC under a unified lawsuit that originally was filed solely against MaxLinear.

Comcast's argument: MaxLinear, a chipmaker, and Entropic LLC, now the owner of a portfolio of patents that once belonged to MaxLinear, allegedly "engaged in a scheme" that would clear the way for Entropic LLC to salvage a pair of separate patent infringement lawsuits lodged against Comcast in a California court. Entropic LLC has filed similar patent-related cases against Charter Communications, Cox Communications, Dish Network and DirecTV.

Under that alleged scheme, Comcast claimed that MaxLinear tried to scuttle a pair of agreements with Comcast, including one that contains a critical no-sue clause. If those agreements – along with the integrated no-sue clause – were eliminated, Comcast argued, Entropic would then be free to continue with its California lawsuits against the cable operator unhindered.

In the combined lawsuit filed with a New York federal court, Comcast accused MaxLinear of breach of contract and accused Entropic LLC of "tortious interference."  

However, a technicality messed up Comcast's plan to sue both entities in the same suit. The New York federal court recently dismissed Comcast's attempt to unify the lawsuit because it found there was a lack of diversity of citizenship because Comcast and Entropic LLC are both classified as citizens of Pennsylvania. Comcast is headquartered in Philadelphia. At least one entity in Entropic LLC's membership chain can claim Pennsylvania citizenship, the court found.

Comcast remedied that this week by reasserting its claim against Entropic with a New York state court. That complaint, filed Thursday (November 15) with the Supreme Court of the State of New York, also accused Entropic of interfering with Comcast's contractual relationship with MaxLinear.

Comcast argues that Entropic LLC compelled MaxLinear – and/or coordinated with the chipmaker – to terminate MaxLinear's vendor support agreement (VSA) and statement of work (SOW) with Comcast without notice, therefore causing MaxLinear's alleged breach of contract with the cable operator.

"Entropic had no legal justification to procure MaxLinear's breach, the only purpose of which was an attempted circumvention of the Covenant Not to Sue so that Entropic could attempt to maintain the California Lawsuits against Comcast," Comcast argued.

Comcast also held that the elimination of those agreements with MaxLinear would put its broadband service at risk for millions of customers and subject the operator to "significant burden and expense."

Entropic LLC, like these cases, is complicated

Entropic LLC, considered a non-practicing entity, holds a large patent portfolio but does not create or sell actual products. Its name harkens back to Entropic Communications Inc. (Entropic Inc.), a chipmaker specializing in Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) technology that MaxLinear acquired in 2015. MaxLinear sold its MoCA-related patents to Entropic LLC in early 2021.

Entropic LLC, a unit led by CEO Boris Teksler, appears to be a complicated entity in its own right. Comcast claims that Entropic LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Entropic Holdings LLC, a limited liability company owned by several entities in Delaware, the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom. According to a Comcast court filing, owners of Entropic Holdings include limited partnerships such as FIP UST LP, a partnership based in New York organized under the laws of Delaware; UK-based L3 Investment Holdings; and multiple units of Fortress Intellectual Property Opportunity Fund, including one that operates out of New York but is organized under the laws of the Cayman Islands.

Comcast suit against MaxLinear carries on

Meanwhile, there's been some movement in Comcast's suit against MaxLinear, which originally was filed on May 26, 2023.

Amid the progression of that case, MaxLinear agreed on September 12 to perform all services tied to its existing VSA and SOW with Comcast until May 23, 2024 – that will cover a full year's notice MaxLinear is required to provide before those agreements can be terminated.

MaxLinear's role under those agreements is partly to provide feature development, bug fixes and security patches, and to ensure parts are available for Comcast devices in the field containing MaxLinear silicon. Comcast estimates that about 14 million devices, including CommScope-made XB6 and XB7 DOCSIS 3.1 gateways, contain MaxLinear chips.

Under the latest briefing schedule, MaxLinear has until December 1, 2023, to respond to Comcast's latest amended complaint. If MaxLinear files a motion to dismiss the complaint, Comcast must file its response on or before January 26, 2024.

The bigger picture

These lawsuits come at a crucial time for the cable industry, arriving as operators, including Comcast, move ahead with DOCSIS 4.0 upgrades.

At last month's SCTE Cable-Tec Expo MaxLinear introduced the Puma 8, a cable modem chipset based on the Extended Spectrum DOCSIS (ESD) option for DOCSIS 4.0. Askey, CommScope and Hitron have signed on as "early adopters" for MaxLinear's new D4.0 silicon.

Meanwhile, Broadcom, a MaxLinear rival, teamed up with Comcast on a family of DOCSIS 4.0 chipsets for modems, nodes and amplifiers that support both the ESD and Full Duplex DOCSIS (FDX) flavors of the D4.0 specs. Slated for trials in early 2024, Broadcom's new, unified chips will also embed artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies designed to improve network operations and automate various functions.

Comcast's DOCSIS 4.0 deployment is well underway – it has launched D4.0-based services in parts of Colorado Springs and Atlanta under "X-Class Internet" branding. Comcast expects to introduce similar services in the Philadelphia area later this year.

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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