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Roku Fires Up Patent War with Remote Maker Universal Electronics

Roku remote control
(Image credit: Roku)

Roku is suing Universal Electronics, maker of remote controls for large pay TV operators, OTT gadget makers and CE brands, for patent infringement.

The streaming giant says the Santa Ana, Calif.-based company has violated patents related to the set-up of infrared remote controls.

The suit, filed last week in a California federal court, alleges violations of U.S. Patent No. 8,378,875, “Method of Programming a Universal Remote Control,” and No. 7,388,511, “System for Remote Control of Identical Devices.” 

Roku says its patents are infringed on based on set-up features, including “QuickSet” and “SimpleSet,” found in programmable remotes made for pay TV operators including Charter Communications, WideOpenWest, and Videotron, as well as smart TV makers Samsung, LG Electronics and Zenith.

The legal action seems to be the latest volley in an emerging rivalry between the two technology companies. 

In May of last year, Universal Electronics filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission, alleging Roku remotes tied to TV sets made by Chinese brands TCL and Hisense, and imported into North America, violate its patents. Universal also filed a suit against Roku in the same California Central District court. TCL and Hisense are fast-rising rivals Korean brands Samsung and LG in the North America smart TV market. 

Among other clients, Universal Electronics makes the voice remote for Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex video platforms—the cable giant even has a warrants agreement with the vendor. Universal also makes remotes for Liberty Global and AT&T, as well as Dish Network’s Android TV-powered AirTV devices. 

Perhaps more notable to the Roku litigation, Universal Electronics now makes remotes to streaming devices including Apple TV.