Yesterday Entropic Communications, a designer and maker of semiconductors and “system-on-a-chip” (SoC) technology, filed a patent infringement action against fellow SoC maker ViXS Systems in district court in the Southern District of California.  Entropic alleges that ViXS infringes two patents that are essential to the home entertainment networking standards developed and promulgated by the Multimedia Over Coax Alliance, also known as the MoCA family of standards or MoCa specifications (MoCA is a trade group, not a recognized SSO or SDO, so some do not like to refer to the MoCA specifications as “standards”).  The MoCA specifications have been widely adopted and are marketed as “the universal standards for home entertainment networking,” allowing users to stream high-definition content at high speeds throughout a house using their existing coax network (e.g., for use in multi-room DVRs, gaming, etc.).

[Entropic v. ViXS Complaint]

The two patents in suit are U.S. Patent No. 7,295,518, titled “Broadband network for coaxial cable using multi-carrier modulation,” and U.S. Patent No. 7,889,759, titled “Broadband cable network utilizing common bit-loading.”  According to Entropic, ViXS infringes these patents by making/using/selling/importing network media processors and other products that are compliant with the MoCA family of standards.  As compensation for infringement, Entropic is seeking relief in the form of damages under Section 284, as well as costs and attorneys’ fees under Section 285.

One interesting thing to note is that Entropic is not seeking injunctive relief against ViXS.  This is likely because Entropic is a member of MoCA (ViXS is apparently a “contributor”), and the MoCA Intellectual Property Rights Policy expressly prohibits MoCA members or participants from seeking injunctive relief on MoCA-essential patents (except defensively).

Section 5.1.1 of the MoCA IPR Policy provides not just that MoCA members and participants agree to make MoCA-essential patents available on RAND terms to anyone who is making/selling/using MoCA-compliant products, but also that a member participant:

hereby agrees that it shall not seek an injunction and hereby waives its rights to an injunction with respect to infringement of the Alliance Party’s Essential Patent Claims by Fully Compliant Products against any other Alliance Parties that are entitled to receive a RAND license as described in this Section. Such waiver of injunctive relief shall not prohibit the waiving Alliance Party from seeking or receiving damages in connection with such infringement, nor shall such waiver prohibit the waiving Alliance Party from seeking injunctive relief against another Alliance Party that has (i) filed or joined any action in a court of competent jurisdiction seeking injunctive relief against the waiving Alliance Party alleging patent infringement; or (ii) is in breach of a license granted pursuant to this Section.

Note that in this regard, the MoCA IPR Policy is much stronger and more explicit than the patent policies of other SSOs like the IEEE, ITU, or ETSI.  Unlike with those SSOs, where debates over the propriety of seeking injunctive relief rage on, it seems pretty clear that injunctive relief is off-limits for MoCA-essential patents.