Video software

TiVo Fires Another Lawsuit at Comcast

TiVo has lobbed yet another lawsuit at Comcast, alleging that the cable operator is infringing on six patents that, it claims, have linkages to Comcast-supplied DVR and non-DVR set-top box devices and broadband gateways and various services and apps that run on them.

This latest lawsuit, filed today by Rovi Guides Inc. with the US District Court, Central District of California, also takes aim at some specific elements tied to Comcast's X1 platform. The list includes the X1 Sports App, which provides on-screen access to real-time stats from sporting events; multi-room DVR features; Comcast's set-top box integrations of apps like YouTube, Netflix and Pandora; and some other cloud-powered X1 services.

According to a copy of the complaint obtained by Light Reading, here's a snapshot of the patents asserted by Rovi/TiVo in this round:

  • US Patent No. 8,001,564: Electronic Program Guide With Digital Storage Directory, granted Aug. 16, 2011. With this patent, TiVo is targeting the X1 interactive program guide.
  • US Patent No. 7,779,445: Interactive Television Systems With Digital Video Recording and Adjustable Reminders, granted Aug. 17, 2010. With this patent, TiVo is targeting Comcast X1's "Restart" and "Instant on Demand" video service functions.
  • US Patent No. 7,386,871: Program Guide System With Real-Time Data Sources, granted June 10, 2008. With this patent, TiVo specifically points to the X1 Sports App, which provides program listings and real-time data for sporting events.
  • US Patent No. 8,156,528: Personal Video Recorder Systems and Methods, granted April 10, 2012. With this patent, TiVo is targeting Comcast's X1 AnyRoom DVR functionality for DVR and non-DVR boxes that can access recorded programs.
  • US Patent No. 7,301,900: Method and Apparatus for Hub-Based Network Access Via a Multimedia System, granted Nov. 27, 2007. With this patent, TiVo is targeting the X1 platform's integration of various apps and services, including Comcast's cloud DVR, YouTube, Pandora, Netflix, iHeartRadio, Tubi, Facebook, Horoscopes and Weather.
  • US Patent No. 7,200,855: Method and Apparatus of Multiplexing a Plurality of Channels in a Multimedia System, granted April 3, 2007. With this patent (originally filed by ViXS), TiVo is targeting X1 products that use Comcast servers to access X1 applications.

Piling on the litigation
This latest suit is one in a string filed by TiVo/Rovi against Comcast, whose license with TiVo expired on March 31, 2016.

In January, TiVo/Rovi fired a lawsuit against Comcast in the same court alleging that the MSO was infringing on eight other patents describing "advanced" DVR functions, such as cloud/network recording and other whole-home DVR capabilities.

Comcast, meanwhile, has already disabled a remote recording feature for X1 after an International Trade Commission ruling came down in favor of TiVo. TiVo and Comcast are still at odds at the ITC over multiple patents and are battling in a set of other district court cases.

TiVo fired off this latest suit as the company continues to pursue strategic alternatives that could lead to a sale of assets or the splitting of the company into two -- its products business, and its licensing and intellectual property business. The absence of a deal with Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, represents a significant overhang on TiVo's licensing business.

TiVo continues to call litigation against Comcast a "last resort," but said it remains "optimistic that Comcast will come to the table and pay the appropriate licensing fees," and follow along with the new deal that TiVo has cut with other major US providers, such as AT&T, Charter Communications, Dish Network and Verizon.

So far, Comcast hasn't blinked, believing that the Rovi/TiVo patents are outdated and that the technologies used for X1 were largely developed in-house.

"Rovi has in recent years deployed its increasingly obsolete patent portfolio in an unsuccessful litigation campaign seeking to charge Comcast and our customers for technology that Rovi did not invent," a Comcast official said in an emailed statement. "Rovi launched this campaign in April 2016 by asserting infringement of 15 patents - 14 of which have been held to be invalid and/or not infringed by Comcast, or have been withdrawn by Rovi. While we haven't had an opportunity to review Rovi's latest complaint, we will continue to defend ourselves against allegations we determine to be meritless."

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

COMMENTS Add Comment
Jeff Baumgartner 4/22/2019 | 5:17:39 PM
Some interesting names among inventors in latest round of asserted patents As TiVo/Rovi has filed its own and acquired certain patents over the years, it's inevitable that some industry vets that are now associated with other companies in the industry would be among the inventors of intellectual property that's tied to these lawsuits.  Some interesting ones came up in the one filed today:

-Patent 8,001,564 has Joel Hassell and Ed Knudson among its named inventors. This was filed way back in 2003, but Hassell is now CEO of Canoe Ventures, the advanced ad JV of COMCAST, Cox and Charter, while Knudson is now VP, Product & Strategy at Canoe. Knudson was also an exec at DigiForge, an engineering firm focused on digital TV that Rovi acquired in 2011 as well as TV Guide, OpenTV and Intellocity. Hassell has worked with several set-top makers, including Pace, Thomson, Moto and Scientific-Atlanta, and was also with DigiForge and at OpenTV.

-Patent 7,386,871, another asserted patent in the Comcast suit, also has Hassell and Knudson named among the inventors, as well as Steve Reynolds, a former Comcast exec who's now president of playout and network solutions at Imagine Communications, and also late of Intellocity and OpenTV.

And Intelocity, once a Denver-based company that was focused on software for the old DCT-5000, was acquired by ACTV in 2001, which was acquired by OpenTV in 2002.

Just an interesting and a perhaps not super-surprising coincidence, I suppose, given how people tied to patents and other intellectual property move about through the years. But it's interesting (and maybe a little awkward) that some of the names on patents being fired at Comcast now work with firms that in actuality are part of JVs involving Comcast.  JB

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