Acacia Takes on Cable TV High Rollers

Gretchen Gallen
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Acacia Media Technologies Corp. waded into the deep end of mainstream infringement litigation Tuesday by filing a complaint against nine of the biggest cable and satellite companies in the industry.

The patent holder, a subsidiary of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Acacia Research Corp., filed the complaint in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging patent infringement of Acacia's digital media transmission (DMT) patents, which pertain to the transmission and receipt of digital audio and video over the Internet, cable, and satellite.

Companies named as defendants in the lawsuit include Comcast Corp., Charter Communications Inc., The DirectTV Group Inc., Echostar Communications Corp., Boulder Ridge Cable TV, Central Valley Cable TV, LLC, Seren Innovations Inc., Cox Communications Inc., and Hospitality Network Inc., a subsidiary of Cox that supplies hotel in-room entertainment.

The complaint alleges that certain types of programming and activities used by the nine defendants, including pay-per-view, video-on-demand, and digital ad insertion, are infringing on one or more of Acacia's five U.S. DMT patents.

The patent holder has the option of adding additional companies to the suit in the future.

According to Robert Berman, executive vice president of business development, the filings against the nine cable companies should have no bearing on the current status of the lawsuit between Acacia and New Destiny Internet Group, International Web Innovations, or the pending (although still not approved) class-action lawsuit Acacia is aiming for against the adult industry as a whole.

Acacia, which has already licensed 123 companies to use DMT, has been moving toward creating a defendant class covering all online adult companies that have allegedly infringed on its patents and whose video content can be received in Southern California.

"This new case should have no impact on the porn litigation," Berman told XBiz. "One of the reasons that we filed in the Northern District is so that the porn lawyers do not have an excuse to try and slow the case down, as they have attempted in the past. We have asked the court to begin the next phase of discovery and are anxious to move forward."

But Greg Clayman, president of VideoSecrets and a New Destiny defendant feels Acacia might have something up its sleeve when it comes to choosing where to file the lawsuit against cable companies.

"There has been no delay in the case since Judge Ware took the case late last year, and since then the parties have briefed and argued claim construction and await a ruling from the court as to what Acacia's patents actually cover," Clayman told XBiz. "As far as them filing in the Northern District, it appears that Acacia is concerned Judge Ware may rule in favor of the defendants."

According to attorney Eric Martin Bernstein, of Eric M. Bernstein & Associates, Acacia's most recent filings are just another step in a process to move beyond the adult webmaster community to more mainstream infringement cases. The next step, says Bernstein, will be to continue to add as many mainstream companies to Acacia's arsenal as possible.

"They have decided that they know all the potential parties and are going after them in one big lawsuit," Bernstein told XBiz. "I don't believe they are looking for class-action status, but instead they are naming them all in one suit, as opposed to filing individually for reasons probably to do with economy of cost and judicial efficiency."

Acacia is fresh from settling a similar patent infringement lawsuit with On Command Corp., a provider of interactive in-room programming for the hotel industry. On Command is owned by Liberty Satellite & Technology, a subsidiary if Englewood, Colo.-based Liberty Media Liberty, a massive multimedia conglomerate that owns QVC, Encore, Starz!, Discovery, UnitedGlobalCom Inc., IAC/InterActiveCorp and News Corp.

On July 7, U.S. District Court Judge James Ware will hear oral arguments for and against Acacia's motion to establish a class-action lawsuit against the adult industry, which could conceivably include hundreds, if not thousands of companies. Ware is expected to submit a written opinion within weeks of the hearing.