Fox Sued for Patent Infringement When Scheduling NFL Broadcasts

A new federal lawsuit accuses Fox of infringing patents for predictive analytics tools used to optimize its NFL schedule.

On Nov. 29, Recentive Analytics sued Fox in a Delaware federal court, arguing the network “directly infringes” Recentive’s patents by deploying a mapping tool that “creates a schedule of events for content that occurs at discrete time slots (eg, NFL Sunday games at 1 pm ET and 4 pm ET) for a plurality of cities.”

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Based in Massachusetts, Recentive offers analytics platforms to TV networks, leagues, teams and live entertainment companies, which use those platforms to make predictions and adjust resources. The NFL, for instance, has spent years getting smarter about which games it airs in which markets, and it has credited Recentive’s technology with helping it do so. Several teams and schools use another recent platform to predict demand for season tickets. Earlier this year, Recentive entered a joint partnership with Elevate Sports Ventures to expand its footprint.

Fox, Recentive claims, became “aware of and had access to” Recentive’s “predictive analytics platform for regional scheduling of NFL football games for multiple seasons, including specifically the 2022-2023 season” by “at least 2018.” Recent and Fox had separate partnerships with the NFL during this time. Recentive contends that rather than using Recentive’s network maps to schedule regional broadcasts of NFL games, Fox used “infringing predictive analytics software to optimize scheduling and broadcasts.” Recentive says that Fox relies on a VP of data products and ML strategy to develop and oversee a “Fox Mapping Tool,” which Recentive describes as “map[ping] the first plurality of events and the second plurality of events to a plurality of television stations for a plurality of cities.”

As Recentive tells it, the company’s network maps are pioneering. “Prior to Recentive’s invention,” the complaint asserts, “conventional network map technology suffered from many drawbacks,” including an inability to “respond to changing conditions” and “forecast the impact of a proposed schedule change.” For the NFL, Recentive’s computer algorithm offers the chance to “optimize a particular parameter, such as overall television ratings for the NFL across all games, ratings for the NFL with a particular affiliate (CBS or FOX), ratings for the NFL in a particular market, with a particular audience, or at a particular time.”

Recent demands a declaration that Fox is infringing on two patents. It also seeks damages and an injunction that would both prohibit Fox employees from using Recentive’s patented technology and “selling, offering for sale, marketing or using any internal network and mapping analytics tool for the scheduling and regionalization of events covered by [the patents].”

A Fox spokesperson said the company is reviewing the lawsuit. When the time comes, expect attorneys for the network to answer the complaint and seek its dismissal. Fox will likely insist that it has not committed infringement and assert that its scheduling technologies rely on intellectual property developed in-house or in combination with licensed partners. The complexity of technology dictates that patent infringement cases often rely on expert witnesses to provide insight on whether a defendant borrowed too much of another’s technology. Expect both Recentive and Fox to retain such experts.

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