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PVR Companies Wage Patent War

San Jose, Calif. – SonicBlue, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based owner of personal video recorder company ReplayTV, is suing rival TiVo for allegedly violating a recently issued SonicBlue patent on PVR technology.

The suit, which was filed in federal court here, says that TiVo is infringing on the new SonicBlue patent in using electronic television program guides to record video to a hard-disk drive.

TiVo immediately issued a statement refuting ‘false reports’ allegedly made by SonicBlue that TiVo had engaged in negotiations for the use of PVR technology. TiVo said that SonicBlue made the statements ‘after TiVo announced its own key patent wins, and suggested that the two companies have been engaged in licensing discussions.’

‘As the market leader for digital video recording, we have a strong intellectual patent portfolio that protects our technology,’ stated Jim Barton, TiVo chief technology officer. ‘Our announcement of additional patent grants, along with those we’ve made throughout the year, reinforces this IP leadership.’

Both companies have made recent announcement of PVR patent approvals. SonicBlue said its new patent contains ’50 claims describing fundamental properties for implementing’ a digital video recording device, which allows viewers to customize television viewing by automatically recording shows on a computer hard drive using program guides. The patent also covers methodology that creates, names, prioritizes and manages recorded programs on the hard drive for the devices, which are also referred to as DVRs.

TiVo then announced it had been granted a second patent for its technology and service. TiVo’s first patent protects core of digital recording functions, and the newest patent ‘covers inventions that enable simple and reliable networking of multiple streaming media devices in the home,’ TiVo said.

The new technology, which TiVo calls TrickPlay, controls streaming media in a digital device. The patent ‘covers the functions that enable TiVo subscribers to pause live TV as well as rewind, fast forward, play, play faster, play slower, and play in reverse television signals cached by the [digital video recorder]. Storing, editing and manipulation of video are also among the 64 claims supported by the TrickPlay patent,’ TiVo said.

Meanwhile, SonicBlue is fighting a lawsuit filed by a group of television broadcasters for developing a networkable PVR that allows sharing recorded programs with other ReplayTV networkable PVRs connected to broadband Internet access systems. The suit also seeks to thwart the new ReplayTV recorder’s ability to strip out TV commercials.