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BBiTV Tosses Book at AT&T, DirecTV & Dish

Broadband iTV (BBiTV), an intellectual property holder and self-described "pioneer" of VoD and interactive television that had direct business relationships with select US cable operators many moons ago, has unleashed a set of lawsuits against AT&T, DirecTV and Dish Network with a particular focus on their various Internet-connected set-top boxes and mobile apps.

Hawaii-based BBiTV filed those three individual lawsuits with the US District Court for the Western District of Texas Waco Division. AT&T and DirecTV are now the same company following their merger in 2015, but BBiTV is not asserting all of the same individual patents in the complaints lodged against AT&T and DirecTV.

Below is a list of patents, by lawsuit, being asserted by BBiTV.

Against AT&T (Case No. 6:19-cv-712):

  • US Patent No. 10,028,026: "System for addressing on-demand TV program content on TV services platform of a digital TV services provider," issued July 17, 2018.
  • US Patent No. 10,349,101: "System for addressing on-demand TV program content on TV services platform of a digital TV services provider," issued July 9, 2019.
  • US Patent No. 9,998,791: "Video-on-demand content delivery method for providing video-on-demand services to TV service subscribers," issued June 12, 2018.
  • US Patent No. 9,648,388: "Video-on-demand content delivery system for providing video-on-demand services to TV services subscribers," issued May 9, 2017.

Among the specific claims, BBiTV's suit against AT&T makes references to the U-verse service and connected boxes that can receive VoD content via the Internet, as well as U-verse apps that can do the same on mobile devices. They also make reference to guides that are used to select VoD content.

Against DirecTV and Dish (Case Nos. 6:19-cv-714 and 6:19-cv-716, respectively):

  • US Patent No. 10,506,269: "System for addressing on-demand TV program content on TV services platform of a digital TV services provider," issued Dec. 10, 2019.
  • US Patent No. 10,028,026 (referenced above).
  • US Patent No. 9,998,791 (referenced above).
  • US Patent No. 9,648,388 (referenced above).

The DirecTV case references products such as the Genie HD DVR set-top, which can use the Internet to receive and view content, as well as DirecTV apps for mobile devices. BBiTV's Dish lawsuit points to Internet-connected set-tops/receivers such as Dish's Hopper-branded boxes and the Dish Anywhere app for mobile devices.

BBiTV said the company filed the complaints after letters were sent to each about engaging in licensing discussions and those efforts went nowhere, according to Robert Kramer, BBiTV's lead counsel and a partner at Silicon Valley-based Feinberg Day Kramer Alberti Lim Tonkovich & Belloli LLP.

Dish declined comment; AT&T did not respond to emails requesting comment.

Kramer also acknowledged that BBiTV only recently has begun to pursue the licensing of its patents and intellectual properties. The patents being asserted by BBiTV in these cases were issued within the last three years. BBiTV possesses a patent portfolio of about 60 patents, and Kramer stressed that were all developed internally by BBiTV and not bought on the market from other parties.

BBiTV has yet to go after any US cable operators that have developed or deployed Internet-connected set-tops and mobile apps.

BBiTV's cable past
Kramer declined to comment about any specific discussions BBiTV might have underway with US cable ops. "The company doesn't have any other specific companies in mind that it's preparing to file lawsuits against," Kramer said. BBiTV, he added, "is analyzing technologies of those in the field and will make decisions about how to proceed."

BBiTV does have a cable past, having worked with Oceanic Cable/Time Warner Cable (now part of Charter Communications) roughly 15 years ago to build and deploy early iterations of interactive cable channels capable of selling goods via the TV, executing interactive promotions on the TV as well as a "TVClassifieds" app.

Per the company's own description, BBiTV was an operating company for five years starting in 2001 before shifting its focus to IP development and licensing.

BBiTV did have some prior, unsuccessful legal entanglements with TWC and Oceanic related to a much older patent unrelated to the company's cases against AT&T, Dish and DirecTV.

In 2014, BBiTV filed suit against TWC, Oceanic and Hawaiian Telecom over claims they had infringed on a patent (US. No. 7,631,336, "Method for Converting, Navigating and Displaying Video Content Uploaded from the Internet to a Digital TV Video-on-Demand Platform") that the court later invalidated.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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