Gemstar guides TiVo suit

Program guide's license questioned in patent infringement case

Gemstar Intl. Group said Wednesday it has filed a patent infringement suit against TiVo Inc., alleging that the digital video recorder maker stole its program guide technology.

Gemstar’s Pasadena-based StarSight Telecast division claims TiVo “willfully infringed certain Gemstar intellectual property” by deploying, marketing and selling personal video recorders that contained an “unlicensed” program guide.

The suit, filed in Federal District Court’s Northern District of California, claims that the guide was based on Gemstar technology. The technology is at the heart of products such as VCRPlus, which allows viewers to program their VCRs to record a show just by entering a code number that is printed alongside a show’s title in newspaper and magazine TV listings. The technology also enables cable TV viewers to see listings and descriptions of programs onscreen on hundreds of available channels.

“While Gemstar keeps an open licensing policy and is ready to customize licensing terms to accommodate licensee needs, Gemstar is equally ready to vigorously enforce its intellectual property rights,” said Gemstar’s Stephen A. Weiswasser, general counsel and executive veep. “Gemstar will diligently prosecute infringers of its patents, trademarks, copyrights and other intellectual property, and will seek redress to the fullest extent of the law.”

Last October, StarSight won an award of more than $26 million in a contract dispute against General Instruments, with Gemstar claiming GI didn’t pay for proprietary Gemstar electronic program guide technology it purchased as part of a 1992 pact with StarSight. GI is now in a pending acquisition by Motorola, the nation’s No. 1 maker of set-top boxes.

Also in October, Gemstar acquired TV Guide Inc., a former News Corp. holding, for $9.2 billion under which TV Guide will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Gemstar. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter and give Gemstar TV Guide’s brand recognition.

A TiVo spokesperson declined to comment while lawyers were evaluating the lawsuit’s charges but said the company does have 15 application patents pending for its system.

TiVo enables users to digitally record TV programming without videotape and allows viewers to pause and rewind live programming.

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