ContentGuard Dealmaker?

French technology play Thomson is taking a stake in digital rights
management tech provider ContentGuard. The move could help cool simmering European Union objections to the acquisition of the company by Microsoft and Time Warner .

The Paris-based Thomson said Monday it will make a
strategic investment in ContentGuard. The deal places Thomson in partnership
with current investors Microsoft and Time Warner.

Building chatter in the past few weeks said the EU’s competition commission might be close to nixing Microsoft and Time Warner’s plans to buy the assets of ContentGuard they do not yet own. The addition of a French owner may change the equation, making the deal more palatable to EU regulators.

Thomson said it has purchased an aggregate 33 percent voting stake in
ContentGuard from Microsoft, Time Warner and Xerox, subject to customary
closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

Like Microsoft and Time Warner, Thomson now has the right to name two
directors to ContentGuard’s board.

The four-year-old ContentGuard was originally a spin-off of Xerox’s PARC
research center. At the time it spun out, Microsoft joined Xerox as a
strategic investor.

As previously reported, ContentGuard provides DRM technology
via licensing of its patent portfolio. Its XrML is the basis of the recently approved ISO MPEG REL standard, which assigns rights and usage to digital objects.

Time Warner and Microsoft got more deeply involved with ContentGuard
after the two companies settled antitrust lawsuit Time Warner brought against Microsoft over tactics Redmond deployed to crush the Netscape browser.

Now, Thomson said it plans to join Microsoft and
Time Warner to help “promote the development of interoperable DRM systems,
accelerate the deployment of consumer devices that support Digital Rights
Management, and encourage content owners to launch exciting new distribution

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