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Latest TiVo-Comcast Patent Scrum Ends in Draw

Jeff Baumgartner
10/3/2019

The roller coaster ride that is the legal battle between TiVo and Comcast took yet another turn this week as a New York district court issued a mixed ruling centered on a TiVo search-related patent that both sides claimed as a victory.

In an order and opinion handed down on September 30, the court found that the most recent version of Comcast's technology doesn't infringe on the TiVo patent in question, but could not yet say the same about an older product iteration that Comcast was using when its license agreement with TiVo/Rovi expired. A jury might ultimately decide that latter part if the case gets that far. Comcast had moved for summary judgment of non-infringement on TiVo's patent claims.

The grey area, in this case, is largely due to this -- there was a roughly nine-month period between the time Comcast's licensing agreement with TiVo/Rovi expired on March 31, 2016, and when Comcast made what it says were planned changes to an independently developed technology for its X1 platform and implemented those updates in January 2017.

The patent at issue is US No. 8,122,034, which describes a "Method and System for Incremental Search with Reduced Text Entry Where the Relevance of Results is a Dynamically Computed Function of User Input Search String Character Count." In a simpler form, this describes how a range of search results are dynamically created as the user inputs characters, such as letters and numbers, into a query. The '034 patent was issued in 2012 and came into Rovi via its 2014 acquisition of Veveo.

Unlike many other patents TiVo is asserting in its patent battles with Comcast, the '034 patent being asserted in the US District Court Southern District of New York does not have a corresponding case underway at the International Trade Commission.

Win-win?
Though there's more to be decided on the '034 search patent, both sides billed this latest court order and opinion as a victory.

"This SDNY decision shines a light on our evidence that Comcast's technology infringes Rovi's patents -- something we have known for years. We are pleased by this victory and will always fight to protect our patents and technology. We look forward to closing the door on this case and being fairly compensated for the use of our patented technology," Arvin Patel, chief intellectual property officer and EVP at TiVo-owned unit Rovi Corp., said in a statement.

"We are pleased with the Court's ruling," a Comcast official said in a statement. "It's a win for Comcast because the decision confirms that the video search system we have been using since 2017 does not infringe Rovi's patent. We will continue our strong defense of this litigation."

The scrum over the '034 patent is just one of several battles TiVo and Comcast are waging in the civil courts and at the ITC.

Last month, Comcast restored a remote DVR recording function for video streaming apps for web browsers and mobile devices almost two years after an ITC limited exclusion order favored TiVo. Comcast had disagreed with the ITC order but moved to restore that function after the patents forming the basis of the ITC ruling expired and after the Patent Trial and Appeals Board invalidated those patents.

Both sides have held firm at every twist and turn. Comcast believes TiVo's patents are obsolete and that the MSO has independently created the technological underpinnings of its X1 video platform. Meanwhile, TiVo, which is in the process of separating its products business and its licensing and intellectual property business, has put forth a desire to get a new deal done with Comcast, but, short of that, says it has "hundreds" more patents that it believes are related to Comcast's X1 platform.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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