Patent Office Rejects Tivo Time Warp Claims

ALEXANDRIA, VA.: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected two of TiVo’s claims regarding its content time-shifting technology. The technology is at the heart of the company’s ongoing legal dispute with Dish Network and its satellite carrier, EchoStar. The satellite TV providers considered the USPTO’s preliminary ruling a victory in the skirmish.

“These software claims are the same claims that EchoStar was found to have infringed in the contempt ruling now pending on appeal. We believe that the PTO’s conclusions are highly relevant to the issues on appeal as well as the pending sanctions proceedings in the district court,” a Dish statement said.

TiVo, maker of digital video recorders based in Alviso, Calif., said the preliminary finding was a “normal course” of action.

“This is an initial step in the lengthy process known as ‘reexamination,’ and it is not unusual for the PTO to provide a preliminary finding of invalidity and to then later find that the claims are valid after hearing an explanation from the patent owner,” TiVo’s statement read. “Indeed, this is precisely what happened with the first reexamination of the Barton Patent that EchoStar filed in 2005. Among other things, the next step in the reexamination process provides TiVo, for the first time, the opportunity to discuss and distinguish the references presented by EchoStar, and to present new claims.”

Dish was initially enjoined from using TiVo-like DVR technology in its set-tops last year, and subsequently deployed a work-around that was also found to violate TiVo’s patents. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ordered Dish it to disable its DVRs in June. A federal appeals court stayed the ruling last month.

TiVo said it believed the PTO’s preliminary finding would not affect EchoStar’s appeal of the June ruling, which would have forced it to disable DVR functionality in around 4 million set-top receivers. Dish had nearly 13.6 million subscribers as of March 31.

More TVB coverage of TiVo and Dish:
July 2, 2009: “Dish Gets a Break in TiVo Ruling
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit initially granted a temporary stay of the ruling on June 3, and extended it pending the outcome of Dish’s appeal. Opening briefs are due July 17; TiVo’s is due Aug. 25; Dish’s reply is due Sept. 4, with oral arguments anticipated in November.

June 4, 2009: “Court Puts TiVo’s Dish Defeat on Hold
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas handed TiVo a second win in the technology dispute, which started five years ago. TiVo sued Dish in 2004 for infringing on its Time Warp patent, which allows subscribers to simultaneously play back one program while recording another. TiVo won that battle last year when the courts ordered Dish to pay up nearly $105 million in fees and interest.

January 14, 2009: “DBS Operator Continues Spat With TiVo
The folks at the Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) have managed to get the patent police to take another look at TiVo’s time-shifting patent. TiVo and Dish have fought for years over the technology, which TiVo pioneered in its eponymous boxes in the 1990s. Dish eventually incorporated the function into its own set-top boxes, setting off a patent dispute between the two companies.