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Video software

TiVo declares victory against Comcast following ITC ruling

TiVo shares rose more than 8% in after-hours trading after a judge at the International Trade Commission issued an initial determination that Comcast had infringed on pieces of the video software company's intellectual property.

TiVo claimed it as a victory, as did Comcast, which noted that the judge also found no violation on two of the three patents addressed (five other patents asserted in this particular ITC case were tossed out prior to Tuesday's decision) and believes that this ITC ruling won't cause any service disruptions.

Per a copy of the initial determination issued Tuesday, ITC Administrative Law Judge McNamara found the following:

  • Comcast infringed on two asserted claims (1 and 9) for US patent No. 7,779,011 ("Method and system for dynamically processing ambiguous, reduced text search queries and highlighting results thereof," issued in August 2010), and that claims 1 and 9 of the patent are valid.
  • Comcast has infringed on five claims (1, 8, 11, 15, and 22) for US patent No. 7,827,585 ("Electronic program guide with digital storage," issued November 2010), but found likewise that the same claims of the patent are invalid.
  • Comcast has not infringed in three asserted claims of US Patent No. 9,369,741 ("Interactive television systems with digital video recording and adjustable reminders," issued July 2016), and that those patent claims are valid.

Based on the ruling, the big focus is on the '011 patent, which describes a method and system for "processing a search query entered by a user of a device having a text input interface with overloaded keys." Upon receiving an "ambiguous search query," the system then attempts to identify and direct the user to the desired item being searched. The resulting names from that search are then displayed on the device and highlighted.

It's not immediately clear how Tuesday's ruling of infringement on the '011 patent, which still needs to face a full ITC review, will cause Comcast to change or alter the features of its X1 platform or its ability to import X1 devices.

Update: Nothing happens right away following Tuesday's announced ruling from the administrative law judge. If the full ITC agrees following its review, Comcast might have to disable a relatively minor feature that highlights search results that come way of inquiries entered into the system with the cable operator's remote control. However, disabling that highlighting feature would not prevent the search results from being presented.

Following a ruling at the ITC in November 2017 favoring TiVo, Comcast removed a remote recording feature for its mobile apps, forcing customers to set recordings only using the set-top box. Comcast's appeal of that decision is ongoing.

TiVo, which has another complaint under review at the ITC looking to block the importation of X1 devices and certain broadband gateways alongside multiple lawsuits in civil courts, hopes this partial win at the ITC will get Comcast to the table and hammer out a new deal. Comcast's license with TiVo/Rovi expired on March 31, 2016.

"We are thrilled by yet another legal victory," Arvin Patel, EVP and chief intellectual property officer at Rovi Corp., a unit of TiVo, said in a statement. "This decision demonstrates Comcast's repeated infringement of Rovi's patents. We hope that today's decision will encourage Comcast to pay the necessary licensing fees so their customers can once again access advanced cable features."

Comcast, which has previously argued that it developed the technologies underpinning X1 in-house while claiming that TiVo's asserted intellectual property is out of date, downplayed this latest result at the ITC.

"We view today's initial determination to be a victory for Comcast because the Administrative Law Judge found no violation as to two of the three patents addressed," Comcast said in a statement to Light Reading on Wednesday. "We look forward to the full Commission's review of the one remaining patent later this year, but we are confident, regardless, this ruling will not disrupt our service to our customers. Rovi also was unsuccessful on five other patents that it had previously withdrawn from this case. We will continue to resist Rovi's efforts to force Comcast and our customers to make unreasonable payments for aging and obsolete patents."

The litigation between TiVo and Comcast in the courts and at the ITC continue on as TiVo moves ahead with a plan to separate its products business and its licensing/intellectual property business by the first half of 2020.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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