Comcast sues onetime employee over TV-viewership tracking software

Cable carriers use data collected from set-top boxes, such as this Motorola model.
Cable carriers use data collected from set-top boxes, such as this Motorola model.
Posted: January 16, 2014

Comcast Corp. is suing a onetime Colorado employee, contending that while he was with the company, he developed software to track TV viewership patterns with set-top box data and then attempted to license the technology back to the cable giant for millions of dollars.

The employee, Robert A. Orlowski, filed for two patents and created a company, Tuning Analytics L.L.C., to market the product, Comcast says in a federal copyright-infringement lawsuit filed in Philadelphia.

The software presented huge amounts of information gleaned from set-top boxes or digital cable boxes in graphic form that could be easily interpreted by executives, according to both sides in the lawsuit.

Pay-TV and entertainment companies have developed internal TV viewer-measurement tools in recent years, believing that Nielsen ratings do not accurately track patterns.

In court documents, Comcast said Orlowski, who was hired in 2007, developed the software "within the scope of his employment."

Orlowski responded in court documents that Comcast had not assigned him to develop the software, and that the cable company only exposed him "to a problem which had not been solved by Comcast and which Comcast showed no interest in solving." He spent more than 1,000 hours at his home and $10,000 of his money on the project, the documents say. Orlowski, 55 and no longer a Comcast employee, is representing himself in the suit.

On Monday, Comcast attorney Hara K. Jacobs, a partner in the law firm Ballard Spahr, requested a default judgment because Tuning Analytics had failed to retain an attorney. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell, who ruled in December that Tuning Analytics needed an attorney.

A Comcast spokeswoman said the court pleadings "speak for themselves."

Orlowski, in an e-mailed response Tuesday, said, "I understand that Tuning Analytics L.L.C. has been dissolved."

In court documents, Orlowski described Tuning Analytics as owned by nonfamily members who are committed "to charitable causes that I wanted to support." He declined Tuesday to identify the charitable causes.

Comcast filed the lawsuit in November, seeking ownership of Orlowski's two patents, pending patents, and software developed during Orlowski's employment with the company.

According to the suit, Orlowski signed a trial license agreement on Comcast's behalf for the Tuning Analytics software in April 2012. He did not tell Comcast of his connection to the software or Tuning Analytics, the suit says.

That summer, a manager for Tuning Analytics offered to license the software to Comcast for $12.5 million over six years.

Comcast did not agree to the deal and later learned of Orlowski's connection to the software.


bfernandez@phillynews.com

215-854-5897

@bobfernandez1

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