A year after suing digital video pioneer TiVo for violating two patents it holds on digital video recorder technologies, Microsoft is back -- this time suing for infringement of four other patents.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) sued TiVo (NASDAQ: TIVO) last January, partly to protect its customer, AT&T (NYSE: T), from a patent suit TiVo brought in regard to its U-verse Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) service the previous August. AT&T's U-verse service is built on Microsoft's Mediaroom software.
TiVo, which is widely credited with creating the personal video recorder (PVR), sued AT&T over patents it holds on PVR technologies in August 2009.
Microsoft's first suit against TiVo was a move to protect both its intellectual property and to indemnify its customer.
"We have a strong and robust patent portfolio that we will vigorously defend against infringement. It is our responsibility to protect our customers and partners and to safeguard the investments we make to bring innovative products and services to market," Kevin Kutz, Microsoft director of public affairs, said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.
A year ago in his Consumer Electronics Association keynote, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the audience that Mediaroom had garnered some 4 million users by that time.
The latest suit claims that TiVo is infringing four patents held by Microsoft. Their titles range from "Selective Delivery of Programming for Interactive Televideo System," to "User Friendly Remote System Interface Providing Previews of Applications."
Whither the patents?
For once, Microsoft was very early to jump on concepts surrounding the convergence of TV and telecommunications, with a media playback system codenamed Tiger in 1994. While ultimately the project fizzled, Microsoft gained intellectual property from the investment.
In fact, several of the patents that Microsoft is suing over date from the mid-1990s, and may have come from the ill-fated Tiger project.
Besides the suit, Microsoft filed a complaint against TiVo with the International Trade Commission, requesting that infringing set-top boxes and other products using unlicensed Microsoft technologies be banned from import into the U.S. Such a determination could only occur after an investigation by the agency, however.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington in Seattle. If Microsoft prevails, the company asks for an injunction prohibiting illegal use of the patents, as well as damages and court costs.
That doesn't mean the case will ever go to trial, however.
"We remain open to resolving this situation through an intellectual property licensing agreement, and we look forward to continued negotiations with TiVo," Kutz said.
A TiVo spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.