TiVo’s Patent Battle With Comcast Attracts Interest of Conservative Advocacy Groups

International Trade Commission patent dispute draws comments from limited-government advocacy policy groups
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The complicated, three-year, multi-venue patent battle between Comcast and TiVo has drawn the attention of conservative advocates.

A recent public filing by one of the theaters of battle, the U.S. International Trade Commission, reveals commentary from Tea Party Patriots Action, Americans for Limited Government, Frontiers of Freedom Institute, Market Institute, Conservatives for Property Rights, 60 Plus Association and Americans for Limited Government.

The ITC hasn’t released these comments. MCN reached out to a number of these organizations, none of which called back to discuss their position.

Notably, however, Frontiers for Freedom stated on its website that the U.S. patent system is “under siege.” A key nexus of that problem, as the nonprofit org sees it, is the formation of the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), which it calls an “unrestrained tribunal through which anyone can petition to have a patent invalidated.”

Similarly, on its site, Tea Party Patriots Action bemoaned the "shredding" of the U.S. patent system. 

Notably, Comcast has won a number of recent rulings in the PTAB, against TiVo and other companies, which have come after the cable company for patent royalties.

Related: TiVo Claims Another Favorable ITC Ruling Against Comcast

“PTAB’s overreach is particularly egregious because it is extrajudicial. Patent infringers use it to rob innovators not just of their inventions, but of their constitutional right to due process,” wrote George Landrith on the Frontiers of Freedom blog.

The International Trade Federation revealed the comments in a filing rendered last week, indicating the next turn of the screw in TiVo’s multi-stage battle with Comcast.

In June, an administrative law judge upheld one in a series of infringement claims filed by TiVo against Comcast. It had to do with the way text is highlighted in programming guide searches. The filing indicated that the full ITC board plans to review the judge’s ruling. If the ITC upholds the ruling, an exclusion order will prevent Comcast from ordering X1 set-top boxes into the United States that have the feature. Comcast, however, said it has already redesigned the X1 platform with an integration that leaves out the feature.

Tea Party Patriots Action

To further twist your head in knots, that latter move by Comcast is central to TiVo’s strategy. The vendor wants to force Comcast to disable as many X1 features as it can so as to make the cable operator settle with it.

Related: TiVo CEO Shull: ‘We Have Hundreds of Patents We Believe Are Valid Against Comcast’

“Over time, and it'll take time, I think they'll be at the point where they substantially start to hurt their consumer offering. And so that that's a long-term commitment for us for litigation,” TiVo’s new CEO, Dave Shull, told investment analysts during the company’s second quarter earnings call earlier this month.

“From my point of view, we have hundreds of patents that we believe are valid against Comcast," he added. "For better, for worse within the ITC venue, we're having to do these a few at a time. But we'll continue to do so until we get to a reasonable business conversation.”

Certainly, it seems like a fine legal strategy, built by a law firm which will undoubtedly keep on billing TiVo for years as it tries to chip away at Comcast. 

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referenced the name of Dave Shull, TiVo's new CEO. 

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