Microsoft is one of the most active topics on newsgroups at the moment. For a number of stories, but the latest is that they’ve filed a suit late Tuesday against TiVo in a San Francisco federal court, claiming that the Alviso, Calif., maker of digital video recorders illegally uses technology related to purchasing and delivering video and the ability to display programming information. Both are seen as an attempt to counter an earlier suit filed by TiVo against AT&T, which uses Microsoft’s technology in its television service.
Microsoft is seeking unspecified damages and a court order to prevent TiVo from using the Microsoft technology without permission. If successful, the suit would block TiVo from selling DVRs in the absence of a licensing deal. The patents in question in the suits cover program information displays and how TiVo delivers its video. Critics of these suits have noted that they serve anti-competitive interests by cutting out possible competitors to AT&T’s own solutions for recording its TV shows.
Software giant Microsoft had filed the suit against DVR maker TiVo while alleging TiVo it is infringing on Microsoft patents covering the display of “programmable information” and enabling secure payment and delivery of digital video programming. The situation arises from a lawsuit filed by TiVo against AT&T last year in federal court in US State of Texas over the telecom company’s U-Verse system, which is a television service based on Microsoft’s Mediaroom technology. TiVo alleges that AT&T’s system violates three of its patents for commonly used DVR features, including one for a multimedia time-warping system that “allows the user to store selected television broadcast programs while the user is simultaneously watching or reviewing another program.”
In a statement posted onto newsgroups, TiVo has responded stating: “Microsoft’s recent legal actions, including its decision to seek to intervene on behalf of its customer, AT&T, and its recent complaint against TiVo in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California do not bear on whether the AT&T products and services that are the subject of TiVo’s complaint infringe the patents asserted by TiVo. Rather these actions are part of a legal strategy to defend AT&T. We remain confident in our position that AT&T will be found to infringe on the TiVo patents asserted.”
According to some reports, AT&T has insisted that Microsoft cover any damages or losses AT&T might incur from losing a patent fight with TiVo due to its use of Mediaroom technology. Microsoft’s response is to challenge the validity of TiVo’s patents—something EchoStar tried to do for years without success—as well as file its own infringement suit against TiVo. TiVo itself sees the Microsoft suit as “part of a legal strategy to defend AT&T. TiVo is also involved in similar disputes with Verizon, Dish Network and EchoStar. TiVo also provides on-demand movie viewing from Amazon, Netflix and other services, further cutting out AT&T services. While committed to collecting a royalty, Microsoft says it has begun talks with TiVo to reach a deal without going through courts. Microsoft said it would prefer to set up a licensing agreement with TiVo rather than fight the battle in court. Who controls this technology in the end will be an interesting result to many newsgroups. As online media becomes more dominant and with the possibility of the Mediaroom technology becoming more popular, it may result in using more online services to host and serve online content.