In a Matter of Months, Former IV Portfolio Bounces Off One NPE to Land in New Cedar Lane Complaints

  • November 9, 2019
  • Category: New Patent Litigation
    Market Sectors: Consumer Electronics and PCs, Media Content and Distribution

This past February, AVInnov LLC sued Charter Communications in the District of Delaware over four patents from a portfolio of more than three dozen that the Delaware NPE acquired in December 2018 from Intellectual Ventures LLC (IV). Before the deadline to answer, AVInnov voluntarily dismissed the case, in early August. Two months later, AVInnov assigned its entire portfolio to Cedar Lane Technologies Inc., a Canadian NPE already managing two litigation campaigns from its growing body of former IV patents, now numbering close to 100. It took Cedar Lane about a month to reassert the same four patents against Charter Communications (2:19-cv-00368), this time in the Eastern District of Texas, also suing Frontier Communications (2:19-cv-00269), also in the Eastern District, and Lions Gate Entertainment (Starz Entertainment) (1:19-cv-03189), in the District of Colorado. Accused are the defendants’ respective cable boxes.

The four patents asserted against Charter Communications (6,502,194; 6,526,411; 6,721,489; 7,173,177) were developed by different original assignees. Comprising a family of one, the ‘194 patent issued to Synetix Technologies in December 2002 with an estimated priority date in April 1999. Russell T. Berman, one of the patent’s named inventors, signed the July 2006 transfer to an IV affiliate as the CEO of Synetix.

Also comprising a family of one, the ‘411 patent issued to Relatable, LLC, a Virginia entity founded in 1999 by Sean Ward (the sole named inventor) and Patrick Breslin (later signing as the entity’s CEO), apparent former NPR colleagues. An IV affiliate acquired the patent in May 2009.

The ‘489 patent issued with multiple named inventors to PhatNoise, Inc. in April 2004 with an estimated priority date in March 2000, also comprising a family of one. PhatNoise, based in California, developed a media manager before its acquisition by Harman in August 2005. The patent passed through another company before its September 2006 transfer to an affiliate of IV.

Finally, the ‘177 patent issued in February 2007 with an estimated priority date in December 1999. It is the second member in a family of four patents, the earliest issuing to MONKEYmedia, Inc., a Texas entity, formed in December 1998, that went on to assert others of its patents in campaigns of its own. Eric J. Gould Bear (one of many named inventors) signed the December 2005 assignment to an IV affiliate on behalf of MONKEYmedia as its CEO. Background on MONKEYmedia’s litigation activities can be read at “Filing Against Samsung Revives MONKEYmedia’s Multimedia Content Emphasis Campaign” (May 2017). In early October, Unified Patents filed a petition for inter partes review of the ‘177 patent; an institution decision has not issued (IPR2020-00006).

Against Frontier, Cedar Lane has asserted the ‘194, ‘411, and ‘489 patents; against Starz, the NPE also asserts the ‘411 and ‘489 patents, together with a third patent (8,745,529). Generally related to data retrieval and display, the ‘529 patent issued in June 2014 to an IV entity, as part of a family of five with original development work done by sole named inventor Barbara L. Barros. Barros assigned the family to IV in May 2008. The patent does not appear to have been asserted in previous litigation.

Cedar Lane Technologies was formed in British Columbia on April 29, 2019 with attorney Greg Benoit as director. The address listed on the entity’s complaints and corporate filings corresponds to Pigott & Co., an IP licensing firm. Benoit signed for Steephill Technologies LLC, an entity through which some of Cedar Lane’s acquisitions from IV passed, as its “authorized person”; he is also the former CEO of monetization firm Patent Armory. Cedar Lane has disclosed in court that it has no parent company and that no publicly held corporation owns ten percent or more of its stock.

With these suits, Cedar Lane has now asserted across three campaigns (one hitting a single defendant in August 2019 and a second, begun in May 2019, that is now up to 15) well over a dozen of the patents that have landed in its possession, either directly or indirectly, from IV, which has been divesting assets at an accelerated rate over the past couple of years. A report on those divestitures can be viewed on RPX Insight here, with the most recent activity—suggesting many more divestitures in the months to come—available here.

Cedar Lane picked up the former AVInnov patents in an assignment dated October 7, 2019. Steven R. Pederson signed for AVInnov as its manager. To view Cedar Lane’s rapidly growing patent portfolio, click here. 11/9, Charter, Eastern District of Texas; Starz, District of Colorado.

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