Video software

TiVo-Dish DVR Slugfest Rages On

5:15 PM -- The latest round in the ongoing DVR patent bout between TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) and Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) and its EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS) tech spinoff has, for a change, favored the corner of Charlie Ergen & Co. That's after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) issued an "office action" yesterday that invalidates two claims (31 and 61) tied to TiVo's so-called "Timewarping" patent. According to the patent (U.S. No. 6,233,389), claim 31 refers to a "process for the simultaneous storage and play back of multimedia data." The other claim, 61, describes "an apparatus" for pretty much the same thing. The patent office rejected them in light of two other existing patents: Nos. 6,018,612 and 5,949,948, making those two TiVo claims "unpatentable" in the view of the PTO. Dish and EchoStar jumped all over that, issuing a joint statement that "these software claims are the same claims that EchoStar was found to have infringed in the contempt ruling now pending on appeal." They likewise argue that the PTO's conclusions are "highly relevant" to some pending sanctions proceedings in a district court, and confirm the "reasonableness of EchoStar's positions on its designaround" of the TiVo patent. As for those possible sanctions, TiVo wants Dish and EchoStar to pony up $1 billion. Dish was earlier ordered to disable the DVR functionality in about 4 million satellite boxes, but an appeals court stay is giving the company a temporary reprieve. (See TiVo Wants Ergen to Dish Out $1B , EchoStar, Dish to Pay TiVo $103M, and Court Grants Dish a Stay.) TiVo, in a statement of its own, stressed that Monday's PTO action was merely a "preliminary finding" that was entered before TiVo had an opportunity to present its views on the matter, and that the PTO may later change its mind as it did with the first "reexamination" of the patent that EchoStar filed back in 2005. (See TiVo: PTO Action Won't Affect Lawsuit.)

The PTO conclusions issued Monday, and still not considered final, "will not affect EchoStar's appeal of the June 2009 ruling by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas finding EchoStar to be in contempt of court," TiVo claimed.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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