Microsoft Sue TiVo Over IP Program Information System

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Microsoft has stepped into a spat between TiVo and US phone Company AT&T in a move that could have a ripple effect in Australia over the use of technology embedded in the TiVo PVR sold by Hybrid TV Services.

The global US software company claims that two lots of technology found in the TiVo PVR infringes on two of its patents: A “system and method for secure purchase and delivery of video content programs”; and “a system for retrieving and displaying programming information in response to selection of a category of programming information,” Microsoft said in a claim lodged in a US Court.

The original patent infringement came about following the filing of a lawsuit by TiVo against AT&T last year in the US over the carrier’s U-Verse system, an IPTV television service that Microsoft claims is based on its 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 a user to store selected television broadcast programs while the user is simultaneously watching or reviewing another program”.

TechFlash claims that in a 17-page filing Microsoft said the disputed features come from Mediaroom and as a result of this AT&T has demanded that Microsoft indemnify it in their fight with TiVo.

“That demand has created potential exposure for Microsoft to the damages Plaintiff seeks to recover from AT&T for the alleged use of Microsoft software in connection with U-verse. Microsoft should be permitted to intervene and protect its own interest’s first-hand,” the filing says. “Moreover, because Microsoft has customers other than AT&T subsidiaries that use Mediaroom, Microsoft should be permitted to eliminate in a single action the cloud of uncertainty that Plaintiff’s infringement allegations have cast over Mediaroom software.”

 

The two other TiVo patents at issue in the case involve an “automatic playback overshoot correction system,” and “a system for timeshifting multmedia content streams.”

In a statement this morning, Microsoft spokesman Kevin Kutz said the company “is open to resolving this situation through an intellectual property licensing agreement, and we have initiated discussions to engage TiVo in negotiations.” We’ve also left a message with a TiVo spokeswoman seeking comment.

According to TechFlash, five years ago Microsoft and TiVo announced a partnership to let people move content from TiVo boxes to Microsoft-powered devices. I’ve asked Microsoft if that agreement is now expired, and whether it included any patent provisions.

In response, TiVo said, “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 US 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.”

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