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Roku, remote control maker sue each other over patents

Streaming TV device maker Roku is suing the manufacturer of universal electronic remotes for allegedly violating two of its programming patents.

The lawsuit filed in federal court relates to remote control manufactured by Universal Electronics for devices made by Samsung, LG and several cable companies.

The complaint comes after Universal Electronics filed a lawsuit of its own lawsuits against Roku complaining of serial patent infringement by the streaming TV hardware company.

Universal Electronics has beef with Roku over the company’s line of universal, voice-activated remote controls that Roku bundles with many of its streaming set-top boxes and sticks.

Universal Electronics licenses its technology covering voice-active remotes to several companies, including Comcast, which counts the company as a supplier of said remotes. The company says it has over 500 patents that help protect its innovative offerings.

This month, Roku fired back against Universal Electronics, complaining that the company’s “QuickSet” technology violates patents concerning how universal remotes are programmed to work with other devices. Universal Electronics says QuickSet is offered as a feature on more than 500 million devices.

In a statement released this week and first reported by the trade publication Fierce Video, a Roku spokesperson said the numerous lawsuits filed by Universal Electronics ultimately provoked the company to file a patent infringement lawsuit of its own.

“[Universal Electronics] has engaged in serial patent litigation against Roku since September 2018, and Roku believes that their patent claims are meritless,” the Roku spokesperson said. “Roku has vigorously defended these cases and has successfully challenged the validity of several [Universal Electronics] patents.”

Last year, the International Trade Commission (ITC) said it was probing whether Universal Electronics was awarded certain patents validly after learning about the company’s lawsuit against Roku. Specifically, the ITC was looking into the company’s QuickSet technology, which was at the center of its initial complaints against Roku.

The ITC probe came at the request of Universal Electronics after the lawsuit was filed against Roku, the company affirmed.

“When other companies use our technology without permission, we first endeavor to form mutually beneficial business arrangements and it is only when such arrangements cannot be achieved that we take action to vigorously protect our valuable [intellectual property,” Paul Arling, the chief executive of Universal Electronics, said last year.

Universal Electronics said it expects its federal case against Roku to progress 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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