TiVo is once again ratcheting up the legal pressure on Comcast in its three-year court battle to get the cable company to once again pay technology royalties.
Through its Rovi division, the tech vendor Friday filed another complaint in the venue in which it has had its greatest success against Comcast, the International Trade Commission.
The new ITC complaint comes days after TiVo filed a new federal patent infringement lawsuit in California, and it pertains to the same six patents. Those patents, TiVo said, enable features on Comcast’s X1 video platform such as the X1 Sports App, multi-room DVR and set-top box integrations of streaming apps like Netflix.
In November 2017, litigating an earlier TiVo complaint, the ITC threw out TiVo’s arguments on most of half a dozen patents. However, the organization sided with TiVo on two patents, one of which pertained to remote recording on X1. In order to keep importing X1 set-top boxes into the U.S., Comcast had to either pay TiVo royalties, or ditch the remote recording feature. It chose the latter.
And that, in a nutshell, is TiVo’s strategy, as expressed to MCN in an interview with one of the company’s intellectual property lawyers last year. Fighting in myriad legal forums, TiVo/Rovi may lose the vast majority of claims in venues like the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeals Board. However, eventually, as it battles Comcast over enough technology patents, it will win enough battles—and Comcast will have had to disable too many X1 features and will be forced to settle.
Comcast executives say that TiVo’s patents are outdated, and that it has developed its X1 technologies in its own Philadelphia labs.
But for TiVo, the battle is existential—its whole technology licensing business is undermined if the second biggest U.S. pay TV company successfully gets away without paying tribute.
All of this litigation, of course, isn’t cheap. TiVo’s IP litigation costs increased by $11.3 million last year, and they’re sure to shoot up again this year.
"For more than a decade, Comcast partnered with Rovi to enable its customers to watch what they want, when they want on TV,” said Arvin Patel, executive VP and chief intellectual property officer at TiVo/Rovi. “However, because Comcast refuses to pay licensing fees to use our technology, its customers are being charged more for fewer features, including no access to critical DVR features such as remote recording. As a result, Comcast customers are the only ones that are unable to hit 'record' with a simple tap or swipe from their provider's app when they are outside of their home.”