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Broadcasters Win a Delay in Hard-Disk Automation Suit

Judge declines Mission Abstract’s argument that defendants and BE had put a ‘cloud’ over its patents

The half-dozen broadcast groups involved in the hard-disk automation patent legal case have won a stay in U.S. District Court.

The court stay does not address underlying merits of the suit; but the development seems likely to stiffen further the resolve of stations that don’t want to pay licensing fees, even though the court case does not directly involve collection letters stations have been getting from Mission Abstract Data.

Judge Leonard P. Stark of the U.S. District Court of Delaware granted the stay. Mission Abstract Data, which also uses the name Digimedia, had sued broadcast groups including Beasley, CBS, Cumulus, Cox, Greater Media and Entercom. The broadcasters then asked the court to hold off on proceedings while a challenge to the patents themselves was being considered at the Patent Office.

As RW has reported, the Patent Office since overturned some, though not all, of the key claims made by Mission Abstract Data.

The judge wrote this week: “Both the litigation and the reexamination are in their early stages, and no date for trial has been set. However, the reexamination appears to be moving quickly while relatively few resources appear to have been expended so far on the litigation. This factor favors a stay.”

He ruled that a stay would not unduly prejudice Mission Abstract Data nor give the defendants an undue advantage.

Mission Abstract Data, he wrote, had argued that broadcasters and Broadcast Electronics had put a “cloud” over its patents, stripping them of their licensing value. (BE is not involved in the suit but pressed the Patent Office to conduct the reexamination.)

The judge continued: “But, as Mission Abstract acknowledged, that cloud can be at least largely removed by Mission Abstract prevailing before the [Patent Office], something which could occur more expeditiously, under the circumstances, than a resolution of the instant litigation. Moreover, because the PTO reexaminations will proceed whether or not this case is stayed, the cloud cannot be entirely removed until the reexaminations are concluded.”

Automation Battle May Not Be Over Quite Yet

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