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Vizio Asks FCC to Lower Digital TV Patent Fees

5 Jan, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey

HDTV company Vizio is petitioning the Federal Communications Commission to lower patent fees for digital TVs, claiming they are excessive, unregulated and costing consumers more than $1 billion and counting.

“This is the great untold story of the transition to digital television,” said Amos Snead, spokesman for the Coalition to Terminate Financial Abuses of the Television Transmission, or CUT FATT, which Vizio is backing. “Since 2007, American consumers have been paying more than 20 to 30 times what consumers in Europe and Japan pay in royalties for basically the same technologies.

“What’s worse, patent holders bundle allegedly essential technology with worthless patents, jack up the rates, and stick consumers with the bill. The FCC created this system, and it’s time for the FCC to fix it by establishing basic rules that make pricing fair and transparent.”

Since July 2007, the FCC has required that every new American TV set — 62,000 of which are sold per day, Vizio said — include a digital tuner. Patent holders for those tuners, Vizio says, are charging as much as $30 per TV for the same rights that cost consumers in Europe and Japan $1 or less.

“Without action now, this abuse could continue for many years,” said Laynie Newsome, VIZIO VP of sales and marketing communications. “We believe that the FCC must declare that any [digital TV] royalty demands that exceed comparable international fees are a violation of FCC rules. We believe that any patent holder seeking higher fees should be required to prove to the FCC that their license fees are reasonable and non-discriminatory.”

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