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Now Motorola tries “trumped up” patent charges against TiVo

There is something deeply unseemly about Motorola suing TiVo on behalf of its customer Verizon


Published: 3 March, 2011


There is something deeply unseemly about Motorola suing TiVo on behalf of its customer Verizon. TiVo has spent years putting a software only version of its DVR implementation on a Motorola set top, in order for Motorola to stay in control at Comcast, as its lead DVR and set top provider. But when Motorola became the vendor of choice to provide both major US Telco’s with set tops tied in with Microsoft software, Comcast was heard to grumble that now that the Telcos had signed up for a software tie in, they could experience the high prices and vendor control which the cablecos had gone through courtesy of Motorola’s General Instrument acquisition.

Motorola was also the last vendor to arrive at a fully functioning DVR, and while companies like TiVo were out there spending their life’s blood on its creation, Motorola was dragging its heels and failing to introduce new technology into the pay TV equation. After all, it had a DRM lock-in which meant that the major Cablecos in the US had to buy from Motorola or Scientific Atlanta (now part of Cisco) anyway, so why bother to innovate.

It’s always the way, Motorola has trawled through patents it never knew it had, in order to find some new legal wrangle to try against TiVo, just to kill off a genuine innovator, or ensure that it ends up with less of a payout than it deserves.

It’s tactical, it’s brazen, it’s cynical, but in our opinion it will not work. So far TiVo has not come out and said that because it was dealing with its results release where it alluded to it briefly, but during the course of the next few days it will surely put something on its web site saying, “(Sigh).. yet another waste of our time but we will fight it in the courtroom, and win once again etc… we have absolute confidence that our patents have withstood multiple attempts to invalidate them and have always won, blah, blah…”

Both AT&T and now Verizon have pushed the onus for defense of their legal actions onto their suppliers, and the patents which have been raised once again are those filed in the mid to early 1990s by Edward Krause, who began life at General Instrument, left and formed Imedia, which was acquired by Terayon in 1999, which at that time was mostly making Cable Modems, and had no DVR in sight. In 2007 Motorola bought Terayon for unrelated technology. So all the phony rhetoric about infringing on its inventions are purely that, phony.

In fact if you read the patents they were made envisaging video tape as the preferred media, not a hard drive, although the potential for using a hard drive is mentioned as an aside. If you can simply successfully patent a “gist” of an idea, we’d like to point out that one of the Faultline editors wrote a novel in 1990 which posited the idea of a machine which recorded live TV as it played, so perhaps we should have a patent for that. Hey, maybe all clamshell phones should pay the writers on Star Trek a royalty for them inventing that idea.

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