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Comcast sues former employee over software that tracks everything you watch on TV

Zach Epstein
January 16th, 2014 at 10:35 AM
Comcast Lawsuit TV Tracking

In a federal copyright-infringement lawsuit filed recently in Philadelphia, Comcast is suing a former employee over the rights to software he developed while working for the pay TV giant in Colorado. Defendant Robert Orlowski helped form the company Tuning Analytics, LLC to market and sell software he developed that tracks a TV watcher’s viewing habits by being installed on his or her set-top box. Orlowski also filed two patents protecting the technology used in his software. According to Comcast’s suit, however, it has rights to Orlowski’s software and to all related patents.

“Tuning Analytics, LLC is a privately held company with a passion for transforming set-top box channel tuning data into useful information,” the company explains on its website. “We have developed new approaches to analyzing this ‘big data’ problem using commodity hardware. Through research of the industry, we were able to develop our proprietary algorithms that are used to mine the richness of the channel tuning data, thus providing a wealth of historic information.”

Tuning Analytics co-founder Robert Orlowski was indeed employed by Comcast when he developed the software that prompted him to form a start-up and ultimately leave Comcast. According to court documents obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer, however, he contends that he developed the software over the course of 1,000 hours at his own at home, and that he spent $10,000 of his own money on the project.

In a potentially damning twist, however, Comcast asserts that Orlowski signed Comcast up for a trial of Tuning Analytics’ software on Comcast’s behalf while he was still employed by the company. According to court documents, he did not inform Comcast of his connection to company, which then tried to license its software to Comcast for six years in a deal worth $12.5 million.

The software in question has tremendous value to pay TV providers. By tracking subscriber viewing habits and analyzing the resulting data, service providers and broadcasters are able to better cater their services to viewers and potentially increase their revenue as a result. Such software collects a tremendous amount of data, however, and finding new and better ways to analyze it is hugely important.

While the company’s website was still operational at the time of this writing, Orlowski told The Inquirer that Tuning Analytics has been dissolved. Orlowski is representing himself in the suit.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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