Rembrandt suits threaten DTV transition?


Suits filed in 2005 and 2006 are getting the attention of mainstream media as the DTV transition nears. A small Pennsylvania company—Rembrandt—filed 14 patent suits over technology that it says is part of the DTV broadcasting standard used by the TV networks. Rembrandt is suing companies including CBS Corp., ABC, NBCU, Fox Broadcasting, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Harris Corp. for millions in royalties. The company has also targeted television-maker Sharp Electronics with a suit.

The suits could hamper the government’s 1.5 billion couponing effort to make the transition to digital television easier with buying set top box DTV tuners.

The American Antitrust Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group, asked federal regulators last month to bar Rembrandt from enforcing its patent, reports The AP. Otherwise, Rembrandt’s suits could add ”tens of millions” of dollars to the cost of digital TV, most of which will likely be passed on to consumers, the nonprofit said. The AAI argues that Rembrandt is violating antitrust and fair competition laws by abusing the monopoly provided by its patent.

”This is a massive tax that Rembrandt is trying to place on the transition to digital TV,” said David Balto, an antitrust attorney who co-wrote a petition the AAI submitted recently to the FTC.

”We don’t believe that we’re infringing the patents that Rembrandt purchased from others,” Jenni Moyer, a spokeswoman for Comcast told the AP. The patents are ”invalid and unenforceable,” she added.

Rembrandt acquired the patent in question in 2004 from Paradyne Corp., a spinoff from AT&T, which developed the technology and obtained the patent in the 90s.