Comcast Seeks Declaratory Judgment for Patent Non-Infringement

On December 9, plaintiff Comcast filed a complaint against Defendants L3Harris Technologies, Inc. and Harris Global Communications, Inc. (Comcast Cable Communications, LLC v. L3Harris Technologies, Inc. Harris Global Communications, Inc. 1:19-cv-02245) for declaratory judgment of patent non-infringement. The complaint is filed in the Delaware District Court. Comcast is represented by Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell.

Comcast has sought to determine that it does not infringe upon any of the L3Harris patents; the complaint lists 15 different patents. L3Harris has alleged that its patents cover aspects of several open and/or public protocols, including “Zigbee, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) IEEE 802.11e and 802.11ac, and Thread (hereinafter the ‘Accused Networking Protocols’), as used in Internet of Things (‘IoT’) devices.”

L3Harris has accused Comcast of infringing its patents “based on the purported operation and capabilities of Comcast’s IoT devices that allegedly use the Accused Networking Protocols (hereinafter the ‘Accused Products’).” The complaint stated that the Accused Products were not made or created by L3Harris, instead, they were developed by Comcast and its partners.

“[T]he Accused Networking Protocols allow IoT devices – such as home-security, entertainment, and other ‘smart-home’ systems – to communicate with one another efficiently and inexpensively. The technology underlying each protocol was developed through the efforts of multiple companies operating through alliances and organizations around the world. Comcast, for instance, has participated as a promoter in the Zigbee Alliance. Zigbee is a networking solution for IoT devices that allows low-power smart objects and products many different vendors to work together. On information and belief, L3Harris is not a member of the Zigbee Alliance.”

Further, the complaint claimed that for BLE, which is developed and maintained by the Smart Home Subgroup of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, it does not appear that L3Harris is a member or contributed to the development of BLE. Thread is developed and maintained by the Thread Group, it does not appear that L3Harris is a member of the Thread Group. The complaint stated that 802.11e and 802.11ac are amendments to the IEEE 802.11 protocol, “the world’s most widely used wireless networking standard.” This standard is created and maintained by the LAN/MAN Standards Committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The IEEE 802.11 Working Group consists of members from various organizations. Again, it does not appear that L3Harris is a member of the 802.11 Working Group. However, Comcast is a member of the Wi-Fi Alliance, an effort of the alliance is to certify 802.11e and 803.11ac; L3Harris is not a member of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

In May 2018, Comcast was contacted stating that it needed a license to use L3Harris Patents. Comcast stated that it has not used the information in the Patent, so no license is needed. Comcast has alleged that L3Harris’s accusations are vague, not clear, and “mistaken in their understanding of the Accused Products and the reasonable scope of the patents.” L3Harris continually identified patents that Comcast infringed without adequate evidence and support. However, L3Harris stated, “Comcast branded products from 2012 to the present have infringed and continue to infringe one or more claims of at least [the L3Harris Patents].” Comcast has held firm in its position that it has not “practice[d] the L3Harris Patents and therefore Comcast does not need to license any rights from L3Harris.” L3Harris lists a variety of allegedly infringing Comcast products. In the complaint, Comcast disproves L3Harris’s allegations illustrating how its products do not infringe. “For example, L3Harris asserts that Comcast’s Home Security and Home Automation products supporting Zigbee personal area networks infringe claim 29.  But the accused Home Security and Home Automation products do not satisfy at least the limitations of claim 29 of ‘a plurality of nodes grouped into clusters of nodes, each cluster node having a designated cluster leader node.’ Comcast’s Home Security and Home Automation products do not group nodes into clusters, each cluster having a designated cluster leader node, as required by the claim.” Comcast, therefore, claimed that it does not infringe and therefore does not need a license.