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Forgent singles out cable, DBS in DVR patent suit

Thu, 07/14/2005 - 8:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner, CED

Forgent Networks is throwing the book at 15 companies, including several cable MSOs, alleging that they have infringed on a patent for digital video recording (DVR) technology.

Defendants named in the suit include Cable One Inc., Charter Communications, Comcast Corp., Cox Communications, EchoStar Communications Corp., DirecTV Group Inc. and Time Warner Inc.

The patent (No. 6,285,746), scheduled to expire on May 21, 2011, described a computer-controlled video system that enables playback during recording. Forgent said the patent originates from application serial number 07/703,685. It was filed May 21, 1991.

"This is a natural expansion of the intellectual property program; however, our objective remains the same; to protect our intellectual property assets from infringement, while extracting value from those assets, thus maximizing shareholder returns," said Forgent Chairman & CEO Richard Snyder, in a statement.

Officials from defendants reached Friday had no immediate comment on the Forgent allegations.

The timing of the allegations is of interest, however, as the filing comes only after cable and DBS services providers have been able to achieve some scale with their DVR service deployments.

DVR pioneer TiVo Inc. has not yet been named in the suit, though a recent report suggests that Forgent could also target DVR and PC makers and other consumer electronics companies that make video time-shifting products.

TiVo and Sonicblue -- which purchased another DVR upstart, ReplayTV, then sold those assets to D&M Holdings Inc. -- settled dueling lawsuits involving DVR technology in 2002.

Forgent said it has generated more than $100 million in licensing revenue since its inception three years ago. Its patent portfolio also includes the combined portfolios of VTEL Corp. and Compression Labs Inc., originator of a JPEG patent (No. 4,698,672).

Forgent filed the suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division. It has retained Godwin Gruber LLP and The Roth Law Firm. Under agreements with them, Forgent said it will retain up to 60 percent of all licensing revenue, and up to 60 percent of all litigation proceeds from the '746 patent, after expenses.

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