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OpenTV Corp. has formally agreed to participate in the CableLabs OpenCable initiative, an important move that should erase any potential patent squabbles related to cable-fed interactive television (iTV) services and the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP).

OpenTV's participation also continues a recent string of heavier involvement with the cable industry. On Monday, the company announced that Time Warner Cable will use OpenTV middleware to run the MSO's in-house digital navigator/interactive program guide (and perhaps other interactive apps) in systems that employ Motorola digital headends and set-tops.

OpenTV's participation in OpenCable is considered important because the set-top software specialist happens to have north of 450 patents and other intellectual property linked to iTV applications and middleware.

OCAP, which incorporates big chunks of the Multimedia Home Platform (MHP), uses a royalty-bearing model.

In addition to participating in the standards development process and how those standards will work, participation also ensures that if OpenTV has any patents that apply to OCAP that they'll be licensed on fair and reasonable terms, explained OpenTV Chairman & CEO Jim Chiddix.

"We were in the [middleware] business very early. We have some very basic patents," Chiddix said. He added that OpenTV did not take the joining of the CableLabs process "lightly," but realized that it would be necessary if OpenTV were to play a serious role in legacy and more advanced OCAP cable environments.
 
"We expect OpenTV to be an active participant in our efforts and look forward, now with OpenTV's help, to accelerating market acceptance and deployment of advanced digital television services," said CableLabs President & CEO Dr. Richard Green, in a statement.

OpenTV is also participating in an OCAP patent pool headed up by Via Licensing Corp. Last July, Via Licensing released the licensing terms for patents connected to the 1.0 versions of OCAP and DVB-MHP. Under the terms disclosed, OCAP fees will run $1.50 per consumer device for manufacturers, and, for cable operators, 30 cents per sub per year, or a one-time, five-year license for $1.50. In addition to OpenTV, identified patent holders included Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable, Panasonic, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics and Thomson.

Although that work is not yet finalized, Chiddix is a fan of the proposed model.

"Patent pools work very well, and MPEG[-2] is a wonderful example. Those who do have patents get paid. Nobody sues anybody. It's a good system," he said.

Chiddix noted that OpenTV's decision to participate in OpenCable has no bearing on the company's ongoing case with Double C Technologies LLC, a joint venture of Comcast and Cox Communications born out of their $82 million acquisition of the North American assets of Liberate Technologies, a one-time OpenTV rival. The original lawsuit between OpenTV and Liberate was filed before Comcast and Cox acquired the Liberate assets.

OpenTV and Double C are working toward a settlement that could result in business relationships between the two parties, Chiddix said.

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