The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit today handed a victory to Comcast Cable Communications and more than 40 other defendants in consolidated patent-infringement lawsuits brought by Acacia Media Technologies Corp. The unanimous ruling invalidates 49 claims in four patents that Acacia has asserted against cable and satellite TV providers across the country, as well as providers of streaming content over the Internet.
"The Federal Circuit put these patents out of their misery quickly," said Keker & Van Nest partner David Silbert, lead counsel for Comcast. "Acacia threatened a lot of legitimate businesses with these patents, but all four federal judges who have examined the patents have found them wanting."
Acacia, a non-practicing entity whose parent is publicly traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange (ACTG), had demanded tens of millions of dollars in royalties on the patents from the cable and satellite industries, and also demanded royalties from hundreds of smaller entities, including more than a hundred colleges and universities. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit group that advocates for digital rights, placed the Acacia patents on its "Most Wanted" list.
Acacia claims that more than 300 entities agreed to take licenses to the patents, including Disney and other large media companies. But Acacia sued 45 companies who refused to take licenses, including Comcast and others; the cases were consolidated before the U.S. District Judge James Ware in San Jose. In October 2009, Judge Ware entered judgment for the defendants, ruling that all of the patent claims asserted by Acacia are invalid under the patent laws because they are “indefinite.” Today the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. affirmed that ruling, issuing its order just two days after holding oral argument in the case.