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Now is the time to litigate patents in TV middleware functions including DVRs, interactive advertising, VOD and TV Apps. Advanced middleware, DVR and advertising solutions are important revenue generation and protection strategies for major MSOs, and vendors feel that a product plus patent approach gives them the best chance of success in the marketplace.

In May, Invidi accused Visible World of infringing Invidi patents in their system implemented for Cablevision. These patents cover advanced advertising systems, a topic very much on the mind of MSOs today.
Also in May, DISH Network and EchoStar reached a $500 million settlement with TiVo based on claims they infringed TiVo’s Time Warp patents. TiVO is still involved in intellectual property (IP) litigation with AT&T, Microsoft and Verizon, a fact which it tries to both highlight (“sets a precedent regarding the strength and enforceability of our intellectual property”) and downplay (“our intellectual property program is but one part of TiVo’s long term growth strategy”) in its first quarter results report (April 30, 2011).
Finally, ActiveVideo recently won a $111 million award against Verizon for patent infringement covering interactive TV and video on demand implementations. Note that Verizon developed its own Middleware platform, so no other vendors are named in the suit.
Cablevision seems to be at the center of this patent storm; they use ActiveVideo and Visible World. This is driven primarily by their being an early implementer of these technologies – and therefore a visible target. In January Concurrent announced a patent related to networked DVRs, which could also bring battles, related to Cablevision deployments with SeaChange and others.