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TiVo Beats Comcast in Court

By Rich Smith - Mar 2, 2020 at 10:53AM

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But does it matter in the long run?

Win, lose, draw. Lather, rinse, repeat. For at least four years now, digital video recorder (DVR) maker TiVo (TIVO) has been feuding with broadcasting powerhouse Comcast (CMCSA -1.76%) over the latter's alleged violation of the former's patents.

Sometimes it looks like TiVo is winning these disputes. Other times, Comcast. Of course, whenever one party loses, it appeals and extends its chances of eventually coming out on top. Today, it looks like TiVo has the advantage thanks to a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

To facilitate distribution of its programming, Comcast offers its customers a sophisticated X1 digital video recorder that acts as both a set-top box and also a DVR for home storage of recorded programming. The problem is, a lot of the technology that's inside the X1, TiVo says it invented first. (More specifically, it says the tech was invented by Rovi, which bought TiVo in 2016 and took its name.)

DVR and remote

Image source: Getty Images.

In today's ruling, the Court of Appeals affirmed a prior ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission that forbade Comcast's import of X1 boxes containing disputed technology.  

So is the matter resolved?

Probably not. TiVo's victory concerns only one of three patents currently under dispute, and further legal wrangling is anticipated. Regarding the bigger picture though, investors have to wonder why these companies are fighting over DVR technology at all, given consumers' mass flight away from cable TV packages and the DVRs that facilitate them, and the overwhelming popularity of over-the-top (OTT) video streaming that does not require at-home DVRs at all.

In the end, the real winners from all this legal maneuvering may be the lawyers collecting the fees.

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