Summary: Dish Network Corp. and TiVo; VirnetX and Microsoft; Todd Bishop and Eric Engleman on RPX et al; Katherine Noyes on Microsoft and Amazon
A federal appeals court Thursday handed a key legal victory to TiVo Inc. in a long-running patent dispute with Dish Network Corp., sending shares of the maker of digital video recorders surging 62%.
TiVo said the court ruling clears the way for it to collect about $300 million from satellite-television provider Dish and sister company EchoStar Corp.
On the surface, it sounds just like any patent-infringement claim against Microsoft: A relatively small technology company files a lawsuit in a plaintiff-friendly court and alleges a giant corporation has violated its patents for years.
On March 8, Microsoft will be back in U.S. District Court in East Texas to defend itself against another patent-infringement case.
The new case is being brought by real-time communications vendor VirnetX Inc. and involves three VirnetX patents which that company claims Microsoft is using improperly in Windows XP, Vista and Windows Server, among other products.
“There’s more awareness of patents as an asset class,” said John Amster, a former executive at Intellectual Ventures who now heads up RPX, a San Francisco-based firm that buys up patents on behalf of technology firms. “Companies are understanding the value of patent aggregation.”
Some of the most recent developments:
• A broad patent cross-licensing agreement announced between Microsoft and Amazon on Feb. 22 gives the companies new opportunities to collaborate while promising to keep them out of the courtroom, even as they increasingly find themselves in competition.
• A licensing pact between Bellevue-based patent firm Intellectual Ventures and Verizon gave the wireless giant extra ammunition in a dispute with TiVo.
• Apple this week sued smart-phone maker HTC Corp., which makes devices for Google and Microsoft, alleging that it violated Apple’s patents on technologies behind its popular iPhone.
I can’t help but suspect that there is some major hypocrisy at work here in how copyright law is selectively applied in order to benefit special interests at the expensive of incentives for maximizing the creation and distribution of new works. (And please spare me the ‘fair use’ argument. I would completely agree that this should be considered fair use. But if it is, then one must concede that fair use should be applied by the courts far more generously that it currently is – so much so that it would effectively altogether omit the copyright protections which currently prevent the creations of ‘derivative works’.)
Why would Amazon want to cozy up with Microsoft on a patent cross-licensing deal? “Amazon isn’t the kind of company you can push around with the threat of lawsuits everybody knows you can’t win,” noted Slashdot blogger Mhall119. “It’s entirely possible that they have agreed to be interoperable with each other in order to ensure their unobstructed existence in the reader market,” said Slashdot blogger Eldavojohn.
Then again, “So long Amazon, it was nice knowing you,” chimed in Richy_T.
Still, “Microsoft has never successfully proven any patent infringement against Linux,” noted Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site.
Right now, we’re all worrying about Apple’s patent claims against HTC, but Android may face a similar attack from Microsoft.
It’s not terribly well known that Microsoft claims that it owns significant intellectual property used in Linux, the operating system at the heart of Android. Starting in 2006, Microsoft began reaching licensing deals with a number of companies that use the open source OS, among them Novell, I-O Data, Samsung, LG Electronics and most recently, Amazon.