International Trade Commission Opens Probe Of Cablevision Set-Tops

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The U.S. International Trade Commission said Thursday it will investigate certain Cablevision Systems digital set-top boxes, in response to a complaint by Verizon Communications accusing the cable operator of patent infringement.

Verizon filed the ITC complaint last month and also sued Cablevision in Delaware federal court alleging patent infringement.

In a statement Thursday Cablevision said, "It is becoming increasingly clear that Verizon is having difficulty competing on the merits in the marketplace, so they are resorting to filing lawsuits and pursuing regulatory bailouts. This is a procedural step that has no bearing on the merits of the case, which was filed a month ago, and we obviously plan a vigorous defense."

Cablevision's reference to a "regulatory bailout" alludes to Verizon's request to the Federal Communications Commission to force the cable company to provide HD feeds of MSG and MSG Plus for FiOS TV.

Verizon's ITC complaint alleges Cablevision violated section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in importing into the U.S. and selling three digital set-top boxes -- Cisco Systems' Scientific Atlanta Explorer 4250HD, SA Explorer 8300HD and SA Explorer 4200HD -- that infringe patents asserted by Verizon. The telco requested that Cablevision be ordered to stop distributing the boxes.

The ITC noted that it "has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case." The agency said it will set a target date for completing the investigation within 45 days.

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