Microsoft Sues TiVo Over DVR Patents

Is it a move to indemnify AT&T for TiVo's patent suit regarding U-verse?

Microsoft sued TiVo on Tuesday, claiming the smaller company is violating two of its patents related to personal digital video recorders (DVR).

The move by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) appears at least in part to be a response to a suit that TiVo (NASDAQ: TIVO), which invented the first commercial DVR, brought against AT&T (NYSE: T) and its U-verse Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) service last August.

Although Microsoft is not named in TiVo's suit against AT&T, Microsoft's Mediaroom software lies at the heart of U-verse.

"Mediaroom today is available to over four million users around the globe, four million users enjoying every day the TV service on their set-top boxes with the Mediaroom software that's offered by leading providers like AT&T U-verse in the U.S.," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the audience earlier this month during his opening keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

The software giant claims that TiVo violates one patent described as a "system for displaying programming information,” and a second patent for a "system and method for secure purchase and delivery of video content programs."

Microsoft's suit asks for an injunction to halt the alleged infringement as well as damages, though it doesn't name any figures.

"Microsoft filed a complaint yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against TiVo Inc. for infringement of two Microsoft patents," Microsoft's Director of Public Affairs Kevin Kutz said in a statement e-mailed to

"However, we remain open to resolving this situation through an intellectual property licensing agreement, and we have initiated discussions to engage TiVo in negotiations," Kutz added.

If Microsoft's conciliatory tone or the lawsuit have weakened TiVo's resolve, though, the smaller firm hasn't let its poker face down so far. TiVo's take on it is that Microsoft seems to be leveraging the lawsuit for other purposes.

"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," TiVo officials said in a statement released on Wednesday.

"[T]hese 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," the statement continued.

The three patents that TiVo has alleged AT&T's U-verse violates are described in the court filing as a "multimedia time warping system," an "automatic playback overshoot correction system," and a "system for time shifting multimedia content stream."

TiVo's suit against AT&T over U-verse asks for monetary damages as well as an injunction against the communications giant. A Microsoft spokesperson declined to say whether Microsoft's suit against TiVo and TiVo's suit against AT&T are connected.

The TiVo suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, a court that has been friendly to plaintiffs suing over patent infringement.

For example, Microsoft's recent loss to tiny Canadian developer i4i, with its resultant injunction that forced the software giant to pull infringing copies of Word and Office from the channel last week, as well as some $290 million in penalties and interest, was filed in the same district. Microsoft is re-appealing that case.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: Microsoft, patents, lawsuit, AT&T, TiVo

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