Antwerp commercial court, 3 April 2012, United Video Properties Inc. / Telenet NV, case number A/11/05443 (expedited proceedings on the merits)
Telenet is a Belgian company specialised in digital television services. Telenet launched a new multimedia platform (called “Yelo”) which allows digital TV users to watch their favorite programs not just on their TV, but also on mobile devices such as laptop computers and smartphones. Another function of Yelo is that the set-top box can be programmed from a distance. United Video Properties (UVP) accused Telenet’s Yelo service of infringing its European patent EP 1 213 919 for an “interactive television program guide system having multiple devices within a household”. The patent’s product and process claims inter alia required this system to be “based on first and second user television equipment devices within a household”. The court rejected the infringement claim and held that, on a proper construction of the claims, Telenet’s product could not be considered to fall under the claims of EP ‘919. The court first explained that, based on the patent’s description, the term “user television equipment devices” could only refer to apparatus in which the set-top box function was integrated. Since the smartphones and laptop computers on which Telenet’s Yelo application operated were no such apparatus, Yelo fell outside the scope of the claims of EP ‘919. Furthermore, the court focused on the term “within a household”. According to UVP this only meant that the service was to be used for household-purposes, regardless of the place where the service was activated. According to the court, however, the patent’s description made it clear that the term “within a household” implied a physical connection between the “user television equipment device” and the household, i.e. it has to be placed on a location in the house and is functionally connected to that location. Since Yelo was used on mobile devices that were not physically installed in a specific location of the house and, even they were, were not functionally attributed to such a location, there could be no infringement.