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Gemstar Sues TiVo Over Program Guide

Gemstar’s StarSight subsidiary filed a patent infringement suit against TiVo in a Northern California federal district court, claiming the developer of the personal video recorder system used an unlicensed electronic program guide in its recorder and service.

Gemstar, which claims to have intellectual property rights to virtually any form of electronic program guide, is seeking an injunction and unspecified monetary damages.

Gemstar, which developed the GuidePlus EPG used in televisions today, has virtually cornered the market on EPG patents, following the acquisition of former competitors such as StarSight and VideoGuide.

In October, Gemstar announced plans to buy TV Guide after suing its parent, United Video, for infringing Gemstar EPG patents in its scrolling video guide listing system.

Not named in the suit were Philips and Sony, which are manufacturing and marketing TiVo set-top recorders. Both manufacturers have licensed Gemstar EPG for other products, such as EPG-enhanced TV sets and home satellite systems.

Interestingly, Gemstar has not yet sued Replay, which also markets a personal video recording system tied to an EPG service.

In another move, Gemstar revealed it is buying two companies involved in the development of electronic book technology: NuvoMedia, based in Mountain View, Calif., and Rocket eBook and SoftBook Press based in Menlo Park, Calif.

Gemstar acquired the companies in stock-for-stock transactions.

Plans call for Gemstar to launch later this year a major consumer awareness campaign for new products from NuvoMedia and SoftBook Press.

Right now, sales of these devices number only in the thousands, they are relatively expensive and have limited distribution, and many consumers may find their displays difficult to read.

The new Gemstar electronic book division will be competing with Microsoft, which is working with Barnes & Noble to create an eBook superstore using the Microsoft Reader platform.

NuvoMedia offers a Rocket eBook for $199. The electronic reading device is about the size of a paperback and includes a 4.5″ x 3″ LCD screen.

Rocket eBook will store the equivalent of 55,000 text pages. Sharp has been working with NuvoMedia on a new version of the Rocket eBook.

The SoftBook Reader, meanwhile, is designed for magazine-format publications, offers an 8″ x 6″ LCD screen, and sells for $599. The device is capable of storing up to 85,000 text and graphics pages.