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News summary for 5/23/07

Wed, 05/23/2007 - 8:37am

EchoStar prevails in DVR patent infringement case
By Brian Santo, CED

A Texas jury has invalidated a patent pertaining to DVR technology, a victory for EchoStar Communications, which was being sued for infringement by the holder of the patent, Forgent Networks. Forgent had been seeking $205 million in damages.

Forgent will appeal the decision.

Only last month, nine companies in the cable industry, also sued by Forgent, paid a combined $20 million to settle their cases. The settlement earned each company a license to the patent. That they paid to settle the case, rather than paid for a license directly, is a fine legal distinction that appears to have an important ramification: even though the patent has been ruled invalid, their money is not refundable.

The nine are: Cable One; Charter Communications; Comcast; Comcast STB Software DVR LLC; Cox Communications; Digeo; Motorola; Scientific Atlanta; and Time Warner Cable. The law firm that won the case for EchoStar said another infringement defendant, DirecTV, paid $8 million to settle.

The patent in question is number 6,285,746, “Computer controlled video system allowing playback during recording.” Although ostensibly for a teleconferencing system, the patent is written broadly enough that Forgent was able to expand its claim to include DVR technology.

“We demonstrated to the jury that Forgent’s patent was void on three distinct grounds: written description, anticipation, and obviousness,” said Rachel Krevans, a partner in Morrison & Foerster, a firm that represented EchoStar in the case. She said EchoStar did not dispute infringement at trial, but instead argued that Forgent’s patent was invalid.

In general, patent-holding companies tend to calibrate their claims to the cost of fighting their claims, explained Charles Barquist, a lawyer with Morrison & Foerster, the firm that argued the case for EchoStar. In other words, companies like Forgent make it cheaper to pay them off than to fight their claims. “This is the kind of calculus companies have to make every day,” he said.

EchoStar, he said, is the rare company which, when it has a belief about a patent – whether valid or invalid - prefers to fight for it.

Charter offers home wireless network
By Traci Patterson, CED

Charter Communications Inc. is deploying its Charter Home Networking service nationwide. The service allows two or more computers to share a single Internet connection and communicate with one another.

The offering gives consumers a wireless connectivity package - including installation, configuration, customer service and a security suite - for each networked computer.

Charter Home Networking can be added to the company’s high-speed Internet service for $9.99 per month, which includes the gateway, modem, hardware lease and support for up to five computers, the company said.

Canadian telco deploys Sigma’s SMP
By Traci Patterson, CED

Telus has deployed Sigma Systems' service management platform (SMP) for service provisioning and the activation of wireless voice and data services.

The platform provides an open and configurable OSS service management solution that delivers voice and data services via 2G, 2.5G and 3G wireless networks.

Telus - a Canadian telco with more than 5.1 million subs - is also integrating Sigma’s wireless service package, service topology manager (STM), service creation toolkit (SCT) and service profile manager (SPM).

Harmonic expands bandwidth with CWDM tech
By Brian Santo, CED

Harmonic has added a set of CWDM-based 1310 nm forward path transmitters to its family of PWRLink transmitters. The new transmitters increase available bandwidth by combining multiple wavelengths on existing fiber. The approach is designed to be a less costly alternative to running new fiber closer to the home.

Harmonic's CWDM technology can provide two or more wavelengths in the 1310 nm frequency band that can be combined onto a single fiber for forward transmission and then separated at the node to be demultiplexed and processed by different receivers.

Harmonic called the CWDM technology highly cost-effective, scalable and easy-to-implement. Sunil Frida, director of HFC solutions for Harmonic, said the approach “saves on fiber usage and also provides more flexibility by enabling different wavelengths to carry different types of traffic or content according to the operator's specific requirements."

Broadband Briefs for 5/23/07

* Occam’s 2006, Q1 2007 filings delayed
Occam Networks Inc. is not in compliance with Nasdaq’s Marketplace Rule 4310(c)(14) because Occam did not timely file its Q1 2007 report.

Occam has delayed the filing of its Form 10-Q, as well as its Form 10-K for the 2006 fiscal year, because its audit committee is conducting a review of Occam’s prior revenue recognition practices, the company said.

Occam’s requested hearing before a Nasdaq panel is scheduled for May 31. 

* Ovum sees $ in cable operators’ future
In Ovum RHK’s new five-year global forecast for service provider revenues and capital spending, the company predicts that North American cable operators and Latin American telcos will see the highest growth rates.

“Access network deployment has reached a steady state, and wireline capital spending is entering a period of stability,” said John Lively, VP of forecasting at Ovum RHK. “Continued erosion of fixed voice revenues will constrain future wireline capex increases. Mobile revenue and capex growth will continue, but more slowly as older markets mature.”

* SureWest chooses Widevine for IPTV security
SureWest Communications has chosen Widevine Technologies to protect its IPTV services.

Widevine’s security solution integrates quickly and delivers content to STBs, PCs, PVRs and mobile devices.

Widevine also offers TelcoTV, a downloadable conditional access solution and the ability to secure content across IP video devices.

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