SONICblue Suing TiVo for Patent Infringement

One day after two rivals in the digital video recorder sector traded barbs about which company had the first DVR patent, SONICblue Wednesday says it will file a lawsuit in the Northern District Federal Court against TiVo .

Santa Clara, Calif.-based SONICblue is charging that TiVo is infringing on its patent that forms part of SONICblue’s ReplayTV Digital Video Recorder (DVR) Intellectual Property. The suit claims is asking for an injunction against TiVo’s products plus some money in damages.

“SONICblue’s inventions and underlying Intellectual Property are the cornerstone of our business,” said SONICblue CEO and chairman Ken Potashner.

San Jose, Calif.-based TiVo was not immediately available for comment but is expected to respond in kind. The company Tuesday found itself defending its own products and patents.

“We have a strong intellectual patent portfolio that protects our technology,” TiVo CTO Jim Barton said Tuesday in a statemet.

The trouble started late Monday when TiVo learned that it had earned two U.S. patents – one for its technology and the other for service.

That would be all well and good except that hours earlier, SONICblue announced that it had also received a broad patent for its ReplayTV Digital Video Recorder technology. The patent contains 50 claims describing fundamental properties for implementing a DVR.

TiVo’s first patent, known as TrickPlay, protects the functions that are the core of digital recording devices. The second patent, which it calls Time Warp, covers inventions that enable simple and reliable networking of multiple streaming media devices in the home.

Early Tuesday, SONICblue cryptically announced that it would contact its rival about a possible licensing agreement.

But, when TiVo denied ever having spoken to SONICblue, Potashner, fresh off his victory over the networks, rallied his weary legal team to defend the patent.

“It is our intention to license our technologies and create partnerships, and, in instances where companies will not partner with us, to take measures we deem necessary to aggressively protect our Intellectual Property,” says Potashner.

The tricky part of the suit and possible counter suit is expected to revolve around timelines and ownership.

SONICblue only recently got into the interactive television iTV space with the sales of DVR devices equipped with home networking capabilities under the ReplayTV brand, which it acquired last year.

Tivo, meantime has always had its DVR technology and has even tried to develop and market it with both AOL and Microsoft before its launched its own UltimateTV.

Ironically, if the legal debate extends past a couple of quarters, new products and initiatives produced by either company could be delayed leaving a bitter taste for interactive television in consumer’s minds.

Without new revenue streams, both SONICblue and TiVo would be dragged down into the dot-com dead pool in an already shaky iTV universe.

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