Video software

Microsoft Takes On TiVo

So, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) needs some Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) muscle to take on little ol' TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), eh?

It sorta looks that way after Microsoft sued TiVo late yesterday in San Francisco over claims that the DVR pioneer is infringing patents linked to on-screen guides, navigation systems, and technologies that enable product purchases.

Microsoft is stepping into the legal fray almost five months after TiVo threw the book at AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), alleging that the telcos are infringing three TiVo patents tied to DVR time-shifting. (See TiVo Suit Targets AT&T & Verizon and TiVo: AT&T and Verizon Won't Strike a Deal .)

AT&T, of course, is a significant customer for Microsoft's DVR software and broader Mediaroom IPTV platform, so it's perhaps only natural that Microsoft is stepping in to protect its interests and help the telco fend off feisty TiVo. However, Microsoft did indicate to The Wall Street Journal that it would be willing to resolve this through a licensing deal with TiVo.

TiVo's having none of it, believing that Microsoft's decision to "intervene" on behalf of its customer will have no bearing on the case it's establishing against AT&T.

"Rather, these actions are part of a legal strategy to defend AT&T," TiVo said, in a statement. "We remain confident in our position that AT&T will be found to infringe on the TiVo patents asserted." (See TiVo: Microsoft Suit Tied to AT&T.)

Given TiVo's legal track record so far, it's easy to understand why it's so confident.

TiVo's already been awarded $400 million from its patent case and additional court sanctions against Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) and EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS). However, Charlie Ergen's satellite-TV company and set-top and technology spinoff are still pursuing an appeal, arguing that their patent workaround efforts were done in good faith. (See Court Awards $200M More to TiVo , Another Round to Charlie Ergen & Co?, and TiVo-Dish DVR Slugfest Rages On .)

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. , and DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), which all have direct relationships with TiVo, haven't come under TiVo's legal sights. Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) doesn't have a deal with TiVo, but has avoided any legal entanglements with the DVR company... so far.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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