[Videolib] Fwd: Suing for Streaming Media
Gary Handman (email@example.com)
Fri, 03 Oct 2003 08:58:03 -0700
> From today's Chronicle of Higher Education
>Company's Letters to Colleges Say Its Patents Cover Streaming Media for
>By SCOTT CARLSON
>A California company is telling colleges and universities that it owns
>patents related to audio and video streaming used for online courses, and
>that it is entitled to a portion of revenues from such courses.
>Administrators at some of the colleges the company has contacted say they
>are studying its demands, but they have not yet agreed to licensing deals.
>The company, Acacia Research Corporation, holds five U.S. patents and 17
>international patents in digital-media-transmission technology. The
>patents cover not technological details but concepts like streaming audio
>and digital signals on demand from servers to users' machines.
>Acacia has sent patent-infringement letters to an unknown number of
>colleges across the country, offering to overlook past infringement in
>exchange for the institution's signing on to "a special royalty rate of
>two percent of gross revenue from each online course that includes digital
>audio and/or video content."
>The letters close with a stern warning: "If you continue using our
>patented technology, but choose not to obtain a license from Acacia, we
>reserve the right to seek the maximum amount of damages allowable by law
>and an injunction prohibiting you from continued use of our patented
>technology without a license."
>Seton Hall University is one of the latest to receive a notice from
>Acacia. "They're definitely after us," said Stephen G. Landry, the
>university's chief information officer. "We get $100-million in revenue
>from our courses, any of which can use digital media on the Web site --
>downloadable images, video, sound. In fact, we have had a project to
>encourage faculty to record their lectures and put them on a server."
>The university has already licensed the streaming programs through
>companies like RealNetworks, Mr. Landry said. "I don't think that the
>university is going to be inclined to sign over $2-million a year to
>Acacia for this license agreement," he added.
>Robert A. Berman, senior vice president of business development at Acacia,
>said that the company had sent out about 100 letters to various businesses
>and organizations that use streaming technology, including colleges.
>Through letters, negotiations, and court judgments, he said, the company
>has already gotten some 40 adult-entertainment sites to share a portion of
>their revenues from video streaming. Record companies, as well as
>companies that offer movies in hotel rooms, have also signed up, he said.
>Mr. Berman said that until 2002, the patents were owned by another
>company, Greenwich Information Technologies, which was purchased by
>Acacia. The patents will expire in 2011.
>"The e-learning community is just starting to incorporate online-learning
>technology into their curriculum," he said. "We think that on an ongoing
>basis, these schools and private companies are going to be using this
>technology more and more. We are offering them an opportunity now to
>license our technology at reasonable introductory rates. That offer won't
>He said that the 2-percent rate was negotiable if a college was not making
>money on its courses. "If people have questions about our company or our
>patents, we welcome them to call us," Mr. Berman said. "This is not a
>shakedown. This is not an adversarial process."
>Mr. Berman said letters had gone out to colleges of all types and sizes,
>although he named only DeVry University and Capella University among those
>that were sent letters.
>Among the colleges that have received letters from Acacia is Eastern
>Michigan University. Ward Mullens, associate director of communications
>for the university, said the university's lawyers were reviewing the
>letter and mulling their next move.
>Bill Simpson, president of John Wood Community College, in Illinois, also
>got a letter. "It's before my legal counsel," he said. "I'm waiting to see
>what other colleges do and see how they are responding. I'm not sure that
>we are liable." Mr. Simpson said he had met with officials at Southeastern
>Community College, in Iowa, which also got a letter, to discuss how to respond.
>Virgil Varvel, a computer-assisted-instruction specialist for the
>University of Illinois system, said that his university had not received a
>letter as far as he knew, but that he would dread getting one. The
>university doesn't charge for some of the online content it offers.
>Online courses are "already a borderline return of investment," he said.
>"We would have to stop doing what we're doing."
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