OpenTV Claim Patent Theft By Netflix


While the long-running patent dispute in the handheld technology market between Apple and Samsung finally appears to be getting laid to rest, a new one is set to open up in America’s courtrooms for a matter over online streaming features, with movie rental giant Netflix at the centre of a dispute over select features of ‘over-the-top’ (OTT) TV technology.

open_tv_logoLike the patent dispute that gave a reality check to Apple that they don’t have the right to whichever features they please, the accusing party comes from Switzerland, with Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne-based company Kudelski SA, owners of interactive television service OpenTV, announcing their intention to sue Netflix over their infringements of OpenTV patents.

The lawsuit, filed at the US District Court for the District of Delaware, claimed that Netflix have infringed on no less than 7 US relating to OTT technology, citing methods in video playback, digital rights management, and using viewer information for direct recommendations, amongst other issues.

Kudelski claim to have been in discussions for a legal licencing for the past year, though with no co-operation from Netflix’s side, the matter is now being taken to court. While Netflix have so far declined to comment, an official complaint lodged by Kudelski read: “Companies like Netflix have, in essence, stood on the shoulders of giants, largely focusing their R&D efforts on aggregating these previously patented technologies and using them to provide a rich customer experience.”

Patent investment firm Intellectual Ventures have been working alongside Kudelski since May on their case to protect OpenTV’s 800 patents from the 3,000 owned by the company overall, as hired ‘patent protection’ project manager Joe Chernesky explains: “We [Kudelski] have been developing technologies for over 20 years to enable the delivery of video content and have an early and broad patent portfolio in the field. We intend to aggressively defend our patents.”

External analysers, such as patent brokers/advisers Adapt IP Ventures, claim that the OpenTV and Netflix case could play out on a similar scale to the many smartphone patent disputes, as Adapt’s CEO Glen Moss noted: “The frequency of these cases will increase dramatically. But I don’t see the financial value of the individual cases being as significant as those in the smartphone market.”

OpenTV, and by extension Kudelski, are now hunting down appropriate compensation for what they believe to be an unfair use of features that helped Netflix get to their current lofty position in the market, but while the main difference in this case to the Apple-Samsung one is that the accused are the ones with more financial clout, will the Swiss company get their way?

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