On Wednesday, November 10, Guardian Media named 36 entities in a patent infringement lawsuit involving US Patent Nos. 4,930,158 and 4,930,160. Both of these patents expired several years ago, so Guardian’s only claim is for a few years worth of past damages. However, since the accused products include computers, DVD players, DVRs, and video game consoles (to name a few), the total potential damages pool could end up being quite large. In addition, although the first independent claim of each patent was invalidated in re-examination, several of the claims of each patent still remain. Of course, Guardian Media is no stranger to litigation, but what’s behind this new, fairly aggressive campaign, as well as Guardian’s move from La Jolla to Austin, Texas?
You may remember Guardian Media from this old PatentlyO post, when their bid to knock out a Sony DJ suit failed to stick. In October 2008, Guardian turned its sights on the likes of Toshiba and Phillips, naming them in a lawsuit in California’s Southern District. One month later, Guardian relocated its business to Austin, Texas (according to USPTO assignment records, listing a change of address). Today, it claims Longview, Texas as its principal place of business.
Even more interesting is the resolution of the California cases. In the fall of 2009, Guardian was on the receiving end of an adverse judgment, holding that its claims of infringement against Sony, Panasonic, JVC, and Toshiba had not been proven. It should be noted that that decision is on appeal, with no decision yet from the CAFC. Also, appeals against other defendants (Dell and Nintendo, among others) were voluntarily dismissed back in December 2009 (indicating a possible settlement).
Starlite, one of the defendants in the current Texas lawsuit, was previously named as a defendant in California’s Central District back in July 2009, but that case was dismissed in November of the same year, prior to Starlite appearing to answer the allegations.
Guardian’s patent claims deal with methods of controlling video playback, such as providing parental controls for video playback devices. In addition, Guardian’s decision to mix these companies together in a single suit should motivate many of them to settle. Competitors like AT&T and Verizon, and noted patent duelers Microsoft and Motorola probably won’t like the idea of trying to cooperate and defend this lawsuit while they’re busy battling one another for marketshare and patent dominance, respectively.