Battle Waged Over Andrew Antenna Patents

China-based Comba Telecom has been battling CommScope over patents for remote electrical beam tilt for almost a year since filing a lawsuit against CommScope to revoke the patents. CommScope and its Andrew LLC subsidiary responded the next day stating, “CommScope, Inc.—which, along with its Andrew LLC subsidiary, holds various patents on remote electrical tilt technology—has been sued in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware by Comba Telecom, which seeks a declaratory judgment that eight of Andrew’s patents are invalid.”

CommScope said it “strongly believes that its U.S. patents are valid and will be upheld. CommScope invests in intellectual property that helps the telecommunications industry operate more efficiently and with higher quality of service. The company will respond appropriately to this lawsuit through the legal process.”

Earlier this month, on Feb. 4, CommScope issued a press release stating CommScope Wins Patent Infringement Case Against Comba Telecom. The release said, “In early January 2013, Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court issued its decision finding that Comba had infringed one of CommScope’s Chinese patents and awarded damages. In addition, the court enjoined Comba and its affiliates from manufacturing, selling and offering for sale the infringing antennas in China. Previously, the Reexamination Board of the Chinese Patent Office had rejected Comba’s efforts to invalidate the patent at issue in this case.”

Randy Crenshaw, executive VP and COO of CommScope commented, “We are extremely gratified that the Chinese court has vindicated CommScope’s rights in this matter. Over the years, CommScope, through its Andrew wireless business, has maintained a significant presence in China—including people, manufacturing and research and development centers—aimed at supporting wireless operators and helping grow the local communications infrastructure. We’re proud of the innovative work of our employees, in China and throughout the world, that has led to an extensive portfolio of patents and intellectual property that is core to the innovation we deliver to customers.”

That wasn't the end of the story. Last week, on Feb. 14, Comba Telecom issued a press release that stated, “In the legal action by Comba Telecom against CommScope and its subsidiary Andrew LLC ("Andrew") to invalidate the antenna-related patents in China, the Beijing High People's Court and the Patent Reexamination Office of the State Intellectual Property Office ("Patent Reexamination Office") revoked the patent on remote electrical tilt (RET) technology used in base station antennas as asserted by Andrew in the litigation. The ruling by the Patent Reexamination Office was final and conclusive, and CommScope no longer has any avenues to appeal.”

The Comba release says, “In response to CommScope's statement on 4 February 2013, Comba Telecom takes the position that CommScope's patent infringement case on phase shifter technology is without merit and has appealed the court decision and the decision has not become effective yet and the litigation process is still ongoing. Furthermore, based on the relative small amount of the damages, the Group does not consider that there will be any material implications on the Group in respect of such litigation and court decision.”

Comba Telecom Chairman Mr. Tony TL Fok said, “The litigation by CommScope with respect to phase shifters focused on two models of antenna only for China that was discontinued some time ago due to natural evolution and development of technology. While the effect of this is minimal on our portfolio of antenna offerings, the Group will nonetheless continue to pursue this matter through the courts. We have a strong respect for intellectual property rights and will take steps to defend and uphold our rights.”

This dispute is an indication of how important antenna technology has become as the wireless industry tries to squeeze every last bit of efficiency out of the RF spectrum.

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.