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Roku faces patent lawsuit over use of HEVC technology

The group representing the patent rights-holder said the lawsuit is meant to "level the playing field."

The group representing the patent rights-holder said the lawsuit is meant to "level the playing field."

An office building at the San Jose, California campus of streaming television technology developer Roku. (Photo via Google Street View)

A group representing the rights-holder to a popular video codec is suing streaming hardware maker Roku for incorporating the codec into their devices without paying a royalty to do so.

On Wednesday, Access Advance said the lawsuit was meant to “level [the] playing field” and bring parity to tech companies that have agreed to a licensing payment for the technology.

The codec, HEVC, is an improvement on the popular MPEG video technology. It allows for the transmission of high-definition and ultra high-definition (UHD/4K) video files between servers and devices at lower bitrates, which leads to improved latency and lower data consumption without any noticeable loss in video quality.

Access Advance represents the rights-holder to the HEVC codec, which includes a consortium of tech companies like JVC, Samsung, General Electric, Apple, Canon and Funai. To date, the group says it has inked licensing agreements with more than 300 companies to utilize the codec in their devices or services, including Google, Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo, Sony, Panasonic and Huawei.

But there are some companies that continue to utilize the codec without voluntarily seeking an arrangement to pay for a license, Access Advance complains. In the past, it has brought lawsuits against HP and Asus over the same complaint — and, now, Roku faces similar litigation over not securing a royalty agreement.

“Despite long-term efforts by Advance to resolve patent infringements in good faith, Roku remains unwilling to voluntarily legalize its sales of HEVC capable products,” the group said in a statement. “In response, Advance licensors have chosen to begin enforcement actions to facilitate a level playing field for the pool’s existing licensees. As part of their infringement suits, the pool licensors are seeking payment of past royalties from Roku and an injunction against continuing infringement.”

Roku has not responded to the lawsuit as of Friday afternoon. The lawsuit is seeking past royalty payments and an injunction that prevents Roku from using the codec without a license.

It is the latest instance of a company suing another for violating certain video-related patents. Over the past year, Echostar’s Dish Network has been particularly litigious along the same line, suing around a dozen companies for violating a patent related to adaptive bitrate technology that allows a streaming platform to adjust the file size of a video in transit based on a user’s connection. Some of those lawsuits were quietly settled earlier this year.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.

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