BigBand Sues Firm Started by Ex-Employees

BigBand Networks filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Imagine Communications, a video-processing startup founded by former BigBand employees.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, alleged that Imagine’s products infringe three of BigBand's U.S. patents that cover video-processing and bandwidth-management techniques.

Imagine was founded in 2005 by Ron Gutman and Doron Segev, both previously engineers at BigBand. In April 2006, Imagine hired Jamie Howard, previously BigBand’s chief operating officer, as president and CEO.

BigBand’s lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent Imagine from using the patents, along with monetary damages for willful infringement.

“We do not take this action lightly,” BigBand vice president and general counsel Rob Horton said in a prepared statement. “We believe that the defendant in this case, whose cofounders are former BigBand employees, has infringed upon BigBand's intellectual property and, with this complaint, we are seeking to remedy this specific situation.”

Imagine representatives said the company had no comment as executives were reviewing the lawsuit.

BigBand has claimed to be the leading provider of switched-digital video, which delivers a linear TV channel only when requested by a subscriber, with cable-operator deployments representing more than 6 million homes passed.

Imagine has not yet begun shipping its gateway system, which is designed to improve the efficiency of delivering video-on-demand or SDV streams. The Imagine system works by delivering video using variable bit rates, which the company claimed provides better quality and allows 50% more streams to fit in the same bandwidth compared with systems that use constant bit rates.

BigBand’s three patents cover, in part, multiplexing and bit-rate-conversion processes: patent No. 6,937,619 is for a “Method and system for comparison-based prioritized bit-rate conversion”; 6,999,477 is for a “Method and system for providing multiple services to end-users”; and 7,058,087 is for a “Method and system for prioritized bit-rate conversion.”

Investors in Imagine -- which is based in Cardiff by the Sea, Calif., with development in Israel -- include Carmel Ventures and Columbia Capital.