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June 5, 2014

Verizon Threatens to Sue Netflix Over Streaming Alerts

Nefflix Logo

Verizon has sent Netflix a cease-and-desist letter after the streaming service started displaying warnings that blamed buffering or slowdowns on Verizon's Internet service.

"Netflix's false accusations have the potential to harm the Verizon brand in the marketplace," Randal S. Milch, Verizon's general counsel, wrote in a Thursday letter to Netflix's general counsel, David Hyman.

The note was prompted by a Wednesday article from Quartz, which reported that some Verizon FiOS users, like Vox's Yuri Victor, were seeing warnings from Netflix that said streaming slowdowns were because "The Verizon network is crowded right now."

In the letter, posted online by Re/code, Hyman argued that there is "no basis" for Netflix's assertion that Verizon is responsible for streaming slowdowns.

"As Netflix knows, there are many different factors that can affect traffic on the Internet, including choices by Netflix in how to connect its customers and deliver content to them, interconnection between multiple networks, and consumer in-home issues such as in-home wiring, Wi-Fi, and devices settings and capabilities," Hyman wrote.

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May 20, 2014

Report: Apple, Samsung Resume Patent Settlement Talks

Apple Samsung

Apple and Samsung will reportedly meet once again at the negotiating table in an effort to solve their patent dispute, according to the Korea Times.

Quoting unnamed sources directly involved in the case, the site said that "the key issue is how to dismiss all lawsuits."

The talks come shortly after a California jury awarded Apple $120 million in its most recent patent case against Samsung. That, however, was far short of the more than $2 billion it was requesting. The jury also found that Apple had infringed on some of Samsung's patents, and ordered Cupertino to pay $158,400, which likely made it easier for Samsung to get Apple into settlement talks surrounding their other cases, the Times said.

Recently, Apple and Google's Motorola Mobility agreed to end all litigation over mobile patents. That comes several months after Google and Samsung announced a cross-licensing deal that should cover the companies' existing patents as well as patents produced by either across the next decade.

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May 15, 2014

Philips Sues Nintendo Over Patents, Wants Wii U Banned

Wii U

If you were getting all jazzed about the prospect of playing the much-loved Mario Kart 8 on Nintendo's Wii U console, you best be purchasing one quickly. Philips has sued Nintendo in a Delaware court, claiming that the gaming firm has infringed on two of the company's patents.

Consequently, Philips is seeking damages for the infringement and an injunction that bans Nintendo from "making, using, selling, offering for sale, and importing within the United States" its Wii U console and related products.

Philips claims that Nintendo's products infringe two of its patents: U.S. Patent No. 6,285,379, for a "Virtual Body Control Device," and U.S. Patent No. 8,537,231, for a "User Interface System Based on Pointing Device."

In Philips's lawsuit, the company alleges that Nintendo was first made aware of the company's '379 patent via a 2011 letter from Philips' Susumu Tsugaru to Nintendo's Toshiro Hibino.

A Philips spokesman told the AP that Philips and Nintendo had allegedly been attempting to negotiate a licensing arrangement, to no avail.

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May 3, 2014

Jury Awards Apple $120M in Samsung Patent Case

Samsung Galaxy S III (T-Mobile)A California jury on Friday awarded Apple $120 million in its patent case against Samsung, but that sum was far smaller than the more than $2 billion Cupertino was hoping to get from the Korean electronics maker.

Apple, meanwhile, needs to hand over $158,400 to Samsung for an infringement of its own.

The trial began last month, and the jury deliberated for several days before returning their verdict.

Apple's winnings today pale in comparison to the $1.05 billion another California jury awarded the company in Aug. 2012, a number that was eventually dropped to about $900 million on appeal.

This second patent case, which took place in the same court, covered devices that could not be added to that earlier case due to timing.

Apple and Samsung have been fighting since 2011, when Apple fired the first shot. The legal spat has since expanded to courtrooms around the globe, and will likely not conclude for good anytime soon.

Jurors in this most recent case heard hours of testimony, including a deposition from Google lawyer James Maccoun, who confirmed that Google offered to pay some of Samsung's legal costs and damages if the Korean tech company lost to Cupertino.

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April 28, 2014

Comcast to Divest Customers to Secure TWC Deal

Comcast Time Warner Cable

In an effort to get its pending merger with Time Warner Cable approved, Comcast has announced plans to divest millions of customers to Charter Communications.

In total, the three-fold deal covers about 3.9 million video customers.

First, Comcast will divest TWC systems serving about 1.4 million existing Time Warner Cable customers to Charter for $7.3 billion, which Charter will fund via proceeds from debt.

Second, Comcast and Charter will swap assets serving approximately 1.6 million existing Time Warner Cable customers and 1.6 million Charter customers, which Comcast said will improve the geographic presence of both companies.

Finally, Comcast will spin off a new, independent, publicly traded company - currently dubbed SpinCo - that will cover about 2.5 million existing Comcast customers. Charter will own about 33 percent of SpinCo, worth about $2.1 billion.

As detailed in the map below, most of the markets are in the Midwest, including Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.

"The transactions announced today will provide Charter with greater scale, growth opportunities and improved geographical rationalization of our cable systems, which in turn will drive value for shareholders and more effective customer service," Tom Rutledge, president and CEO of Charter, said in a statement. "And through our meaningful ownership in and board representation at SpinCo, we can help it achieve similar market share growth in the markets it serves."

The announcement comes shortly after Charter urged TWC customers to reject the Comcast merger. In a March proxy statement submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Charter argued that the Comcast-TWC deal is far from a done deal and carries significant regulatory risk. But Charter was not looking out for TWC investors out of the goodness of its heart, of course. The cable company made its own bid for TWC at for $82.54 per share, which the TWC board of directors found to be "grossly inadequate." Ultimately, Comcast offered $158.82 per share.

The deal won't happen unless Comcast's merger with Time Warner Cable is approved by regulators. That acquisition has faced opposition from consumer groups, members of Congress like Sen. Al Franken, and Netflix. But ultimately, the deal must pass muster at the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission.

Comcast Divestitures

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March 6, 2014

Apple Request for Samsung Gadget Ban Denied (Again)

Apple SamsungA California judge this week denied Apple's request to ban almost two dozen Samsung gadgets in the companies' ongoing patent battle.

Judge Lucy Koh ruled that Apple failed to prove that those who bought Samsung gadgets did so because of the patented technology that's at issue in this case: scrolling "bounce back" technology, pinch-to-zoom tech, and double tap to zoom tech.

"Apple bears the burden to prove that these three touch-screen software features drive consumer demand for Samsung's products," Judge Koh wrote in her decision. "Apple has not met this burden."

Koh pointed to consumer surveys conducted by Samsung and Apple that covered what buyers found important when buying a smartphone. "Not a single market research study conducted outside of the context of litigation even asks about the patented features," the judge wrote.

As a result, Apple could not prove that Samsung's use of that technology caused Cupertino "irreparable harm," as is required before a judge could issue an injunction.

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February 23, 2014

Apple, Samsung Fail to Reach Patent Deal

As expected, Samsung and Apple have failed to negotiate a settlement in advance of a yet another trial in their long-running patent fight.

According to a report filed with a California district court, executives met early in the week to discuss a resolution, but did not find common ground.

In January, the tech giants agreed to meet with a mediator in the hopes of coming to an agreement ahead of next month's trial. But no one really thought a deal would actually happen; both sides have been ordered into talks prior to earlier trials, but to no avail.

Still, Apple representatives held more than six phone conferences with the mediator, while Samsung had at least four, the filing said. "Notwithstanding these efforts, the mediator's settlement proposal to the parties was unsuccessful," the filing said, adding that both companies "remain willing to work through the mediator jointly."

Executives in attendance at the Feb. 18 meeting include Apple CEO Tim Cook, general counsel Bruce Sewell, chief litigation counsel Noreen Krall, and chief IP counsel BJ Watrous, as well as Samsung's CEO, JK Shin, IP center heads Seung-Ho Ahn and Ken Korea, CFO HK Park, and heads of licensing Injung Lee and James Kwak.

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January 31, 2014

Apple Sued for Infringing on Touch-Screen Patent

iPad Air Alt

Apple this week was hit with a patent lawsuit over the use of touch-screen panels in products like the iPad Air.

Hilltop Technology on Wednesday filed suit in Texas district court, alleging that Apple is infringing on a patent it owns for a "capacitive type touch panel."

The patent was first filed in April 2008 and issued in Jan. 2011, according to Hilltop. The company alleges that "all Apple products having a capacitive type touch panel, including its iPad Air," infringe on this patent.

According to Hilltop, it "has suffered monetary damages in an amount not yet determined, and will continue to suffer damages in the future unless Apple's infringing activities are enjoined by this Court."

The firm is demanding an injunction and damages, among other things.

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January 9, 2014

Apple, Samsung to Talk Patent Settlement, Deal Unlikely

Apple Samsung

Apple and Samsung are trying once again to resolve their patent fight out of court, but don't hold your breath for a resolution.

A Thursday court document revealed that Apple CEO Tim Cook and Samsung CEO Oh-Hyun Kwon will meet by or before Feb. 19 to try to reach a settlement on their two-year patent battle.

Legal execs for both companies met on Jan. 6 to discuss settlement opportunities, the filing said, and they agreed on a mediator who will handle the February meetup. Outside counsel will not attend the sitdown between Cook and Kwon.

The companies didn't simply have a change of heart, though. In November, Judge Lucy Koh ordered them to submit a proposal regarding settlement discussions before the trial that is set to kick off in March.

The judge has done this before. Prior to an Aug. 2012 trial between Samsung and Apple, which ultimately resulted in a victory for Samsung to the tune of about $900 million, the companies also tried to hash out their differences.

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January 2, 2014

Amazon Collecting Sales Tax in 3 More States

amazon box

Online shoppers in Indiana, Nevada, and Tennessee will soon have to pay a little more for items they buy on Amazon.

Effective Jan. 1, the online retail giant has started collecting sales tax for orders in those states, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. With the three latest additions, Amazon now collects sales tax in 19 states.

State officials expect the new levies to generate more than $50 million a year collectively, the report notes. Technically, customers are supposed to report Web purchases and pay taxes on them, but people rarely do. An Amazon spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon for years has been fighting not to collect sales tax in most states while calling on the feds to decide on the issue. In 2008, New York lawmakers approved a budget package that included a bill that would force online stores like Amazon.com to collect sales tax. Amazon filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court, and took it all the way to the Supreme Court, but the High Court ultimately declined to hear the case.

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