ContentGuard Bulks up Property Portfolio

Digital rights management technology provider ContentGuard added five new
patents to its intellectual property portfolio.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued patent 6,824,051, which describes a rights management system for managing
the use of items by authorized users who are part of an access list.

The European Patent Office issued EP 1 335 260 B1, EP 1 335 261 B1, and EP 1 335 262
B1. They cover the control of access to content with more than one part with the
ability to tailor usage rights for different parts of the content.

The Japanese Patent Office issued patent 3610350, which concerns managing digital
content within a transportable storage device while maintaining assigned
usage rights.

Bruce Gitlin, vice president of business development for ContentGuard,
said the technology covered has broad uses beyond anti-piracy measures.

“DRM will be used to support more and more complex business models, and these
patents, in addition to all the others in ContentGuard’s portfolio, express
some concepts about how to deploy DRM that go to these more complex business
models.”

Gitlin said the patents could allow, for example, the distribution of an
enterprise document with charts and illustrations, allowing recipients the
ability to extract data from the charts but not to change their values.
Another example would be producing a DVD with video promos and music that
let users forward the videos but not the music.

“DRM from our perspective is not about just preventing theft, although it
addresses that, but about giving consumers more options,” Gitlin said. Good
DRM technology, he said, lets players in the content distribution chain try
out different business models, giving consumers deals that are attractive
enough that they want to legally acquire content.

The new patents bring ContentGuard’s total to 30. The company has
licensed its technology for the past two years, most notably to Microsoft
. Gitlin characterized the latest batch as
systems-oriented patents that are “pretty broad.”

Bethesda, Md.-based ContentGuard is in the process of becoming fully
acquired by Microsoft and Time Warner , with Thomson Media
of France taking a 33 percent stake
in a move many see as an attempt to placate EU antitrust
regulators.

In October, the EU opened an
investigation
into whether the acquisition by Microsoft and Time Warner
might consolidate Microsoft’s dominance in DRM technology. Gitlin said he
had no information about that investigation.

In early December, the EU reportedly
put the investigation on hold
pending more information about Thomson’s proposed entry into the
deal.

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