Antitrust Group Requests FTC Investigation of Rembrandt DTV Patent Conduct

Remember Rembrandt? It’s the company that holds critical patents for U.S. ATSC DTV transmission system, as well as digital cable TV. I covered Rembrandt’s patents and their battle with DTV manufacturers and broadcast networks in detail in RF Report for July 5, 2007.

The American Antitrust Institute (AAI) sent a petition to the Federal Trade Commission calling on them to “to initiate an investigation of anticompetitive conduct by Rembrandt, Inc. that will increase the costs of the conversion to digital television for millions of consumers.”

“It appears that Rembrandt has violated the ATSC and FCC policies,” said AAI President Bert Foer. “Enforcement action by the FTC is necessary to protect the millions of consumers who will ultimately pay for the excessive royalties Rembrandt is demanding.”

The AAI news release states, “Rembrandt Inc. has engaged in anticompetitive conduct that may significantly raise the cost of digital television for tens of millions of consumers when the FCC deadline for conversion arrives in February 2009.”

The AAI says that Rembrandt “has repudiated an obligation to license intellectual property on a reasonable and nondiscriminatory basis” and that the company had initiated 14 patent-related suits, which named NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX, as well as five major cable systems and television and equipment makers.

“The patents in dispute were originally owned by AT&T, which had participated in the ATSC process and agreed to the obligation to license the intellectual property on a reasonable and nondiscriminatory basis,” AAI said. “In adopting the ATSC standard, the FCC confirmed this licensing obligation. Rembrandt acquired those patents in December 2004, and less than a year later it repudiated the licensing obligations and commenced litigation seeking to enjoin these firms from implementing digital television and asking for millions of dollars in royalty fees.”

The AAI has requested that the FTC take action to prevent “substantial consumer harm and protect the effective conversion to digital television.”

“In less than 330 days, by Act of Congress, the entire U.S. television marketplace will convert to digital systems,” said AAI president Bert Foer said. “Rembrandt’s patent holdup will cause substantial harm to consumers purchasing new equipment and, ultimately, to all consumers of television.”

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. As vice president of Broadcast Technology for NBCUniversal Local, H. Douglas Lung leads NBC and Telemundo-owned stations’ RF and transmission affairs, including microwave, radars, satellite uplinks, and FCC technical filings. Beginning his career in 1976 at KSCI in Los Angeles, Lung has nearly 50 years of experience in broadcast television engineering. Beginning in 1985, he led the engineering department for what was to become the Telemundo network and station group, assisting in the design, construction and installation of the company’s broadcast and cable facilities. Other projects include work on the launch of Hawaii’s first UHF TV station, the rollout and testing of the ATSC mobile-handheld standard, and software development related to the incentive auction TV spectrum repack.
A longtime columnist for TV Technology, Doug is also a regular contributor to IEEE Broadcast Technology. He is the recipient of the 2023 NAB Television Engineering Award. He also received a Tech Leadership Award from TV Tech publisher Future plc in 2021 and is a member of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society and the Society of Broadcast Engineers.