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Concurrent Shores Up Patent Licenses

Concurrent Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: CCUR) has inked a video-on-demand patent license with C-COR Corp. (Nasdaq: CCBL) that could renew speculation that Duluth, Ga.-based Concurrent is on the block or inching closer to a deal. (See C-COR, Concurrent Ink Patent Deal.)

Under the deal announced today, Concurrent paid C-COR $1.7 million to finalize a new deal that resolves any patent transferability issues, should Concurrent or its video streaming business be sold to another company.

Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) originally developed the patents subject to the deal -- numbers 5,805,804 and 5,623,595. The patents were sold to nCUBE, a VOD company C-COR purchased in early 2005 for $89.5 million; and to Thirdspace Living Ltd., which is in liquidation.

The '804 patent, issued in September 1998, describes a "method and apparatus for scalable, high bandwidth storage retrieval and transportation of multimedia data on a network." The '595 patent, issued in April 1997, is for a "method and apparatus for transparent, real time reconstruction of corrupted data in a redundant array data storage system."

Concurrent obtained a license to those patents in 2002 via an investment in Thirdspace. Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) also has access to those patents because Alcatel acquired Thirdspace's assets in 2003.

In the latest deal, any company that purchases Concurrent will be covered under those patents, so long as the acquirer hasn't been considered a license target by Alcatel.

Thirdspace also agreed to drop any claims to litigation proceeds recorded by C-COR in its protracted patent suit against SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC). In 2006, a court upheld an earlier decision that SeaChange had infringed on the '804 patent.

On the financial front, C-COR paid Thirdspace $3.2 million for the release, and Thirdspace paid that amount to Concurrent to cover secured debts owed to Concurrent, which then paid $1.7 million to C-COR for the patent licenses.

The new patent deal with C-COR "should reassure the investment community and our customers that any Concurrent products sold by us or an acquiring company will be free from any and all patent claims based on the licensed patents," said Concurrent president and CEO Gary Trimm, in a prepared statement.

None of this means an acquisition of Concurrent is imminent, but any potential deal just got a little bit easier. "It clearly helps them in this matter," says Brian Coyne, an analyst with Friedman Billings Ramsey & Co. Inc.

The idea comes up because Concurrent has long been the subject of acquisition rumors. The odds-on favorite had been Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), which just bid $730 million to buy C-COR. (See Arris Bids $730M for C-COR.)

Although Concurrent's video assets would be redundant in some respects, Arris could look to Concurrent to expand its VOD market share. When announcing the C-COR deal last month, Arris chairman and CEO Bob Stanzione said he "wouldn’t rule anything out" when asked whether his company might pursue other acquisitions that could fill gaps in its digital video strategy. (See What's Next for Arris?)

If Concurrent is indeed on the block, two other possible candidates include SeaChange and Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT).

SeaChange has adopted a strategy that places more emphasis on its on-demand software rather than its video servers, and could look to couple its Axiom back-office system with Concurrent's next-gen video server hardware, including the MediaHawk 4500, and a flash-based platform called the MediaCache 1000. (See SeaChange Signs Partners and Dogs & Cats Playing Together .)

Thanks to today's deal, a play for Concurrent could also give SeaChange the patent licenses required to avoid further litigation with C-COR.

Harmonic, meanwhile, expanded into the VOD arena about a year ago with its $45 million acquisition of the Entone Inc. IP video networking software business. (See Harmonic Spends $45M on Entone VOD-Ware.)

Harmonic, which has made significant gains with its encoding and edge QAM gear, might find Concurrent attractive if it wanted to strengthen its VOD positioning, particularly with U.S.-based cable operators.

The patent deal did not have much of an effect on Concurrent shares, which were down 1 cent, to $1.22 each, in midday trading.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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