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Patent Trolls Want a Piece of Your Rising Cable Bill

Gertraude Hofstätter-Weiß February 1, 2011 Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

A company claiming to own a broad patent covering ‘storage and retrieval playback systems’ has sued six large cable companies claiming they are infringing its patents.

Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Bright House Networks, Charter Communications, and Cablevision have all been accused of violating patents that could cover their respective video-on-demand systems.

Pragmatus, whose website is “under construction,” acquired the patents from Intellectual Patents, which has extracted more than a billion dollars in licensing fees on broad-based general patents.  Law.com calls both firms “patent trolls,” because they exist largely to collect money from deep pocketed technology companies.

The lawsuit covers patents 5,581,479 and 5,636,139 which describe technology that uses “information service control points” that send blocks of data to remote stations.  That could cover just about any server.

As proof of infringement, the legal filing simply includes the URL’s of websites that promote video-on-demand services.

Many lawsuits eventually settle out of court quietly, with licensing deals that extract a portion of each subscriber’s monthly payment and send it on to companies like Pragmatus.

Harry Cole, who has dealt with these nuisance suits before, says they are a product of a broken patent system.

“[A patent trolls does] not produce anything. It does not sell anything bought or processed, nor does it buy anything sold or processed, nor does it process anything sold, bought or processed, nor does it repair anything sold, bought or processed … All the company does is speculate on patents, which it purchases on the secondary market in the hope that one such patent will hit it big.”

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