TiVo Dishes It Out

Let's do the TimeWarp again. In this instance, though, that line has nothing to do with the cult flick The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Rather, it has to do with a cult favorite of the living room, TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO  ) , which said late Monday that it has filed a suit against satellite provider EchoStar (Nasdaq: DISH  ) for patent infringement regarding its TimeWarp technology.

According to news agencies, TiVo, which is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick, seeks monetary damages and an injunction against new sales of EchoStar's DVR players. The patent in question relates to similar features that allow users to play back a program while recording a different show.

Not so long ago, Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA  ) plans to provide DVR technology left investors wondering how TiVo will fare if the cable giant (and others like it) begin to offer DVR technology to their subscribers.

Since August, EchoStar -- which competes with major TiVo partner DirecTV, a unit of Hughes (NYSE: GMH  ) -- has been providing its DVR box for free as part of a promotional deal. That promotion is scheduled to end this month.

Looking back, TiVo has been involved in several patent litigations that ended well for the company. One with rival ReplayTV (once owned by now-bankrupt SONICblue) ended in 2002 when both companies dropped the lawsuit, saying in a joint statement, "We believe our energies are better spent expanding the market for Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) rather than fighting each other."

Another high-profile lawsuit with Gemstar-TV Guide (Nasdaq: GMST  ) ended with Gemstar dropping the suit and TiVo granting the company a place on its interface.

Fast-forward to the here and now, though, and serious competition looms in the form of cable operators. Is it "no more Mr. Nice Guy" for TiVo? TiVo investors will eagerly await developments here -- namely, to see whether it can get other companies to pay for what it claims is its intellectual property. Now that the competitive playing field seems to be reaching a critical point, it seems a perfectly good time for TiVo to protect its turf.

Is this a brilliant move, or is TiVo running scared? Will it help or hinder the company? Discuss the outlook with other Fools on the TiVo discussion board.

Alyce Lomax welcomes your feedback at alomax@fool.com.


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  • Report this Comment On May 19, 2010, at 9:29 AM, RodgerKing wrote:

    TIVO has had a win or a tie each time the court has ruled. I think TIVO will prevail if they don't wimp out and settle the lawsuit. Hang tough TIVO. An appeal to the full court is rare but when it happens they agree with the previous ruling 60% of the time. That's good enough for me to gamble.

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