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Zenith Files 8-VSB Suits

Zenith Electronics is going after seven price-aggressive TV competitors through a patent infringement lawsuit related to its vestigial side band (8-VSB) demodulation system, which is used to tune digital ATSC broadcast signals in digital television receivers.

Companies named in the suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas April 4, include Vizio, Westinghouse Digital, Funai, Syntax-Brillian, Polaroid, Petters Group, and APH USA and Akai Electric (both involved with Akai products).

Zenith said each party’s television or tuner-based video products allegedly infringe some or a portion of a dozen separate patents used in its 8-VSB system.

Since the suit was filed, Syntax-Brillian has signed patent licenses with Zenith, a Zenith spokesman said. Zenith would not comment further on the pending litigation.

Zenith developed and holds the patents for the 8-VSB (8-level Trellis coded Vestigial Side Band Modulation) system which was adopted for the Federal Communications Commission and ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) standard of terrestrial DTV (Digital Television) in the United States.

Set manufacturers and marketers, rather than suppliers of component tuner chips and other parts, bear the licensing responsibility for the technology.

Zenith has asked for an injunction to stop the companies from allegedly continuing to infringe its patents, and undisclosed damages, including attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses incurred in the action.

Ironically, the suit names Funai, which recently filed a suit of its own against several of the same TV makers named in the Zenith case, for allegedly violating patents on ATSC-tuning-related program guide technology, which Funai said it has licensed exclusively.

Defendants in the case who were contacted by TWICE also declined to comment.