Summary: TiVo is preemptively sued by Microsoft for alleged patent violation and Microsoft’s PR puts together some lies to disguise the real cause
Microsoft publicly insisted that it’s not suing anyone with patents, unless that someone happens to sue Microsoft first. Microsoft lied however; we know this because of cases such as Primax [1, 2, 3] and even TomTom, where Microsoft took a direct hit to intimidate Linux distributors.
Now, to be fair, TiVo is a patent aggressor which has been suing with software patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], but still, Microsoft was never targeted by TiVo. Nevertheless, Microsoft is suing TiVo, though it has nothing to do with Linux* based on Groklaw’a quick and detailed analysis. To quote portions:
That’s, in my view, Microsoft spin, that it’s doing this to help out AT&T. I would describe it more like this: remember when SCO sued AutoZone for using Linux in its business? AutoZone didn’t write Linux. It just used it. So SCO sued an end user. Similarly, TiVo is suing AT&T. But AT&T didn’t write Microsoft Mediaroom, the implicated software. Microsoft did. So naturally, AT&T has demanded that Microsoft indemnify AT&T, and so here comes Microsoft, essentially defending itself, because if AT&T loses, it’s Microsoft who has to shell out the bucks.
In short, the PR version is that Microsoft is defending AT&T as a Good Samaritan. The reality as I read this is the Microsoft is defending itself, because if AT&T loses, Microsoft faces having to pay yet another pile of bucks for having infringed someone’s patent, just like what just happened to it in the i4i v. Microsoft patent case Microsoft lost and is appealing. That is what is at stake in this picture. You can see that very clearly in footnote 1 on that same page:
1 If TiVo is willing to state on the record that it is not accusing and will not accuse the software used in the U-verse product and/or service, including any aspect of Microsoft Mediaroom, of infringing the TiVo patents, intervention by Microsoft would be unnecessary.
So, this isn’t about helping out a friend. This is about Microsoft selling software that someone is claiming is patent infringing. Again. AT&T is just using Microsoft Mediaroom. That’s why when it got sued, it called up Microsoft. So Microsoft is defending itself. You have to hand it to its PR people, though. They get their spin in print.
In short, friends, this story has absolutely nothing to do with Linux. I knew you’d wonder, because that was my first thought, too, that maybe this was another TomTom. It’s not. And as for TiVo, TiVo may use Linux in its business, but it has not shown any inclination to adopt FOSS values. Linux folks don’t sue people over patents. Some of us remember the GPLv3 discussions, and I’d say we nailed it.
It doesn’t matter if Microsoft lies about the motives; the press blindly believes anything that PR departments are saying, so reality is suddenly an illusion and “war is peace”, as the famous line goes. Almost everyone — including The Register, Joseph Tartakoff and the business press — repeats the same Microsoft talking points:
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is suing TiVo Inc. (TIVO) as part of a broader attempt to provide legal cover for partner AT&T Inc. (T).
Microsoft late Tuesday filed a suit against TiVo in a San Francisco federal court, claiming that the Alviso, Calif., maker of digital video recorders illegally uses technology related to purchasing and delivering video and the ability to display programming information. Both are seen as an attempt to counter an earlier suit filed by TiVo against AT&T, which uses Microsoft’s technology in its television service. Microsoft on Friday requested to intervene in the case on AT&T’s behalf.
Microsoft is standing up for AT&T because the telecommunications company is the largest, and most influential, customer of its Internet video platform. When AT&T chose to go with an Internet-based TV service, it opted to work with Microsoft, which powers the video delivery platform, as well as the digital video recording technology. As a result, it feels the need to shoulder the legal burden for AT&T.
Microsoft has filed a patent-infringement case against TiVo in one federal court and asked to intervene in a dispute between TiVo and AT&T in another federal court — setting the stage for a legal battle over some of the most popular features used to watch television on digital video recorders.
But they are wrong. That’s just Microsoft’s excuse, for the reasons given above.
In any event, as Microsoft goes patent lawsuits-happy, it is possibly repeating the mistakes of old Apple. TechDirt has a short new essay about it, titled “When Declining To Enforce Your Intellectual Property Rights Strengthens Your Market Position”
Over the years we’ve shown many examples of times when it makes much more business sense not to enforce your intellectual property rights, but reader Jerry Leichter sends in another example.
The fact that Microsoft is suing everyone with patents confirms what Jeremy Allison has just said; Microsoft is in trouble, and like any cornered animal in this type of situation, it is attacking. Only a Microsoft MVP [1, 2, 3] would trust Microsoft at this stage. █
* This causes damage to Linux only indirectly, as without TiVo there would be less Linux use. According to Comes vs Microsoft exhibits, Microsoft wants to plant .NET/Mono in devices like TiVo (because of software patent royalties).