DTV Patent Holders Push to Continue Royalty Scheme

FCC Docket 09-23, Petition For Rulemaking And Request For Declaratory Ruling Filed By The Coalition United To Terminate Financial Abuses Of The Television Transition, has drawn filings from Mitsubishi, Valley View, Philips/LG Electronics, Funai, Thomson, ATSC, Harris, Zenith, MPEG LA, Philips/Qualcomm, and Retire Safe.

A starting point in reviewing this material is the joint filing by Philips Electronics North America Corporation and LG Electronics USA, Inc., which makes five arguments, excerpted below (emphasis added).

1) “Vibrant market” for DTV receiver models

“The success of Vizio and Westinghouse Digital Electronics strongly indicates that royalty costs are not preventing the production and sale of inexpensive DTV sets…. [They] have been quite successful in offering DTV receivers priced among the lowest in the industry despite the fact that neither holds a single patent essential to practicing the DTV ATSC standard.”

2: “[P]rivate pools and privately negotiated licensing agreements are working well”

“[P]rivately-administered DTV patent pools, including the MPEG LA MPEG-2 and ATSC portfolios, offer patent licenses to hundreds of essential DTV patents on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms. These pools provide timely and cost-effective access to scores of manufacturers that have delivered millions of affordable DTV sets to U.S. consumers. The Petition provides no real evidence to the contrary.”

3: FCC has “limited experience and expertise in the intricacies of patent law and the determination of patent royalty rates”

“[C]omplex and closely intertwined issues of patent validity, claim construction and the setting of reasonable patent royalty rates require careful deliberation for just a single patent”

4: “[C]onsistency in decisions involving patent law”

“[T]he federal courts and other federal expert agencies, such as the International Trade Commission and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, understand fully the complexities of the patent laws. In order to ensure consistency in decisions involving patent law, the federal courts and these other agencies – not the FCC – should address the concerns raised by the Petitioner.”

5: “[D]iscourage continued development of DTV technology”

“Commission action to lower patent royalties associated with DTV technology would have long-term detrimental effects because it would discourage continued development of DTV technology.  Petitioner’s proposals thus would be harmful to U.S. consumers because they would chill the innovation that engendered American consumers’ embrace of the new digital broadcast technology” technology over the past decade.