BT Sued by Comcast over Network Patents

by Yuyutsu Sen on September 21, 2011

US cable operator Comcast Corp filed a case against Britain’s largest fixed line phone provider BT yesterday. The complaint has been filed in Wilmington federal court in Delaware. The action was taken by Comcast in response to BT’s motion to amend a lawsuit filed by the telecom company in the same court last year against cable companies Cable One Inc. and Cox Communications for the infringement of its patents. As per the BT’s September 1st filing, the amendment would result in the addition of Comcast in the lawsuit as a defendant.

According to court papers, the patents held by BT cover pricing methods, fault monitoring methods, network traffic management methods as well as some other functions. In its lawsuit, BT has sought unspecified damages from the cable companies for the infringement of its patents related to the management and organization of data flow over cable networks.

As per the company’s claims, Cable One and Cox irresponsibly disregarded its rights and deliberately infringed its technologies. In court paper, the London based company’s lawyers state – although the extent of damage caused is unknown, it is substantial and will be determined during the course of litigation. Cox Communications, the 3rd biggest cable operator in the US and Washing Post Co, the parent company for Cable One, did not comment on the issue at the time

BT’s attempt to amend the year old lawsuit and add Comcast as a defendant resulted in the US based cable operator suing the British company. Comcast is seeking a court ruling that it did not infringe any British Telecom patents. The cable operator has requested a jury trial and has also sought the award of legal expenses by British Telecom. In court paper, Comcast states that significant controversy of adequate reality and immediacy exists between the firms to merit a declaratory judgment. Comcast is also making efforts to have the BT patents ruled void.

Comcast, the largest cable operator in the US based in Philadelphia, reported revenue of $37.9 billion last fiscal year. Apart from cable services, the company also offers telephone and high speed internet services for businesses and homes. BT on the other hand is the biggest mobile and fixed communication services provider in the UK. The company’s services are available in over 170 countries. The organization reported revenue of $31 billion in 2010.

BT spokeswoman Kris Kozamchak addressing the issue in an email stated that continuous investment in innovation has helped the company build up corporate assets in the form of a large portfolio of patents. So it is fair that the company try to protect its investment. Comcast lawyers in a letter addressed to Sue L. Robinson, the US District Judge, state that the amendment of its lawsuit by British Telecom and the addition of Comcast as a defendant will put additional strain on jurors, further complicate the issue and expand the need for document gathering many times over. At present, there appears to be no immediate solution for the complicated issue.

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