FTC May Get Involved In Patent Dispute Over Digital TV

from the monopoly-corrupts dept

Back in February we wrote about a patent holding firm called Rembrandt (a nod, I’m sure, to the book “Rembrandts in the Attic,” which many say kicked off this decade’s patent problems) that was suing basically everyone in the TV business, claiming to hold patents on digital television. This was problematic for a few reasons. First, since the FCC is mandating that everyone switch to fully digital TV systems by next year, broadcasters have little choice but to offer digital TV. Second, Rembrandt bought the patent from AT&T who had already promised to license it under RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms which Rembrandt is ignoring. Since the FTC recently smacked down another patent holder for doing the same thing, an advocacy group is now appealing to the FTC to smack down Rembrandt as well, claiming that the company is “violating antitrust and fair competition laws by abusing the monopoly provided by its patent” in order to collect “a massive tax… on the transition to digital TV.” Indeed.

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Companies: rembrandt

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Comments on “FTC May Get Involved In Patent Dispute Over Digital TV”

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What law?

Since the FTC recently smacked down another patent holder for doing the same thing, an advocacy group is now appealing to the FTC to smack down Rembrandt as well, claiming that the company is “violating antitrust and fair competition laws by abusing the monopoly provided by its patent” in order to collect “a massive tax… on the transition to digital TV.”

And from the earlier case: N-Data violated federal law by engaging in unfair methods of competition, the FTC said. Now my question is this: Can anyone point out exactly which law is being violated? I would really like to read it for myself. And can someone please explain to me how it applies in this case but not other patent cases? Does it boil down to political correctness and selective enforcement?


Re: Re: What law?

I believe the law would be patent law, because of the RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms. If I’m not mistaking, companies can sell technology under the term that it be available for widespread industrial use, at nominal (reasonable) fees. But then again, IANAL.

I don’t think RAND is part of US patent laws. Nor do I think that US patent laws regulate the fees that a patent holder may charge.


Mr. Masnik gives far too much creedence to the view that “Rembrants in the Attic” was a possible catalyst for what is happening in patent law litigation. The book in large measure was trite and way off base in positing the value of patents sitting on the shelves of companies and gathering dust. In fact, the book was published long after TI had embarked on a litigation crusade to squeeze value out of its patent portfolio, a portfolio covering much of the technology that TI was actually using in its product offerings.

The truth be told, much of what now exists actually started in the early 80’s when all of a sudden IP became the law of choice for many embarking on their legal careers. Couple this with the merger of what had been relatively small botique IP firms into some of the mega-law law firms, and the die was cast. The end result was only too predictable; litigation practitioners in such large firms quickly displaced IP practitioners who were generally prone to work out business deals rather than file lawsuits demanding extravagant amounts of $$$.

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