Cable modem/CMTS

MSOs Try to Brush Off Rembrandt Patents

A contingent of major MSOs and modem makers is urging a Delaware judge to invalidate two patents from Rembrandt IP Management LLC that are linked to a protracted legal battle over core data-over-cable technologies. According to a report from Law360, the MDL (multidistrict litigation) party -- which includes major U.S. MSOs Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), and Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), along with Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and several other Docsis modem makers – has asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware to invalidate patent Nos. 6,950,444 and 6,131,159. The combatants in this battle have been going at it on the order of five years, but, boiled down, Rembrandt initially went after Comcast, TWC, Cox Communications Inc. , Cablevision, and Charter Communications Inc. , alleging that their use of Docsis, the technical underpinnings of their high-speed Internet and VoIP services, infringed on eight patents Rembrandt obtained via its acquisition of what used to be known as Paradyne Networks Inc. (See Zhone to Buy Paradyne for $184M.)

The MSOs and a group of cable modem vendors fought back last year, characterizing Rembrandt as a patent troll that's attempting to extract millions of dollars in royalties and license fees from cable operators by selling modems through a subsidiary called Remstream. Rembrandt, founded in 2004 and headed up by CEO Dr. Paul B. Schneck, has not responded to a request for comment. Rembrandt's Website says the Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based company was started because "many inventors and companies are unable to obtain the true value of their innovations and the patents that protect them." In the latest turn of events, Law360 said the briefs supporting the motions were filed under seal, but reported that the motion claims the 444 patent (a "system and method for a robust preamble and transmission delimiting in a switched-carrier transceiver") is invalid because it can be "anticipated by a public and accessible version" of the CableLabs Docsis 2.0 specifications. The MDL also argues that the 159 patent (a "system for downloading programs") should be stripped out because "two pre-critical date offers for the claimed invention's sale each independently invalidates the patent," according to the report. However, the move to invalidate those patents emerged soon after Rembrandt moved to dismiss all infringement claims on July 31. That motion also calls for the cable MDL counterclaims to be dropped. The judge assigned to the case has yet to rule on that Rembrandt motion. Rembrandt is CableLabs-certified
Rembrandt has made some limited stabs at developing a modem business amid charges from the cable MDL that Remstream's sole purpose is to wage an "illicit and anti-competitive scheme" to obtain injunctive relief against the nation's major MSOs. According to CableLabs documentation, the cable R&D house awarded Docsis 2.0 certification to a Rembrandt-made stand-alone modem (listed as the REM-8100) in certification wave 52, and Docsis 2.0 and PacketCable 1.5 certification to the REM-8200, an embedded multimedia terminal adapter (EMTA, or voice modem), in wave 60. Multichannel News confirmed last year that Click! Cable TV, a municipal provider that competes with Comcast in Tacoma, Wash., received a shipment of Rembrant-made cherry-red "Remstream" modems (here's a pathetically small and hazy image of one) in early May 2008. — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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