If there was any doubt that the patent wars are heating up, just look at recent news headlines. Recent revelations include Rovi suing Hulu for patent infringement, Google snapping up 1,000 patents from IBM, and the Department of Justice reportedly investigating the sale of Nortel's patent portfolio to a consortium of high-tech companies.
First up, Rovi, the tech behind streaming services from Blockbuster on Demand and Best Buy CinemaNow. Rovi also licenses its IP to Apple, Microsoft, DirectTV and Comcast. The company claims Hulu is trespassing on its patents and wants the company to cough up financial damages.
"Hulu's infringement presents significant and ongoing damages to Rovi's business," Rovi said in the lawsuit, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court of Delaware. Hulu couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Google Buys IBM Patents
Meanwhile, to beef up its patent defenses, Google paid an undisclosed amount for more than 1,000 IBM patents even as Microsoft seems ready to pounce on the company. "Like many tech companies, at times we'll acquire patents that are relevant to our business needs. Bad software patent litigation is a wasteful war that no one will win," Google said.
The move comes as no surprise. Google bid $900 million for Nortel's patent portfolio to build up its mutual-destruction defense strategy in an increasingly litigious technology world.
At the time, Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel at Google, said one of the best defenses against patent litigation is to have a formidable patent portfolio. As a relatively young company, Google's patent portfolio doesn't stack up to large tech companies like Microsoft and IBM. But Google lost the stalking-horse bid for Nortel's patent portfolio, leading the search giant to look to IBM's deep patent pool to provide some potential legal protections.
Don't Jump the Gun
All this is against the backdrop of a potential federal investigation that illustrates how vital patents are to competition in the tech industry. The Wall Street Journal reported that the DOJ is investigating the recent trade between Nortel and a consortium of Google competitors, including Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research In Motion, and Sony. The consortium paid $4.5 billion in cash for the portfolio.
The sale includes more than 6,000 patents and patent applications spanning wireless, wireless 4G, data networking, optical, voice, Internet, service provider, semiconductors and others. The portfolio touches nearly every aspect of telecommunications and other markets as well, including Internet search and social networking.
But Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner, isn't ready to make too much of the DOJ's reported nosing around into the deal: "The DOJ looks into all sorts of things. Obviously when so many things are litigated and where tactical advantages are perceived based on things like patent control, I'm not surprised that they are taking a look and we'll see if they do anything as a result."
Posted: 2011-08-02 @ 6:25am PT
Rovi also provides the television listings for much of the US, and parts of Latin American, Canada, and Europe.
Posted: 2011-08-01 @ 5:46pm PT
Rovi used to be known as Macrovision, they are a big player in the enterainment industry, their services range from copy protectection, rights management, to content generation such as film reviews, album reviews etc.
These guys have been around for a while (in terms of DRM technology), I would assume Hulu is in for a rough ride.
As far as 'nobody knows what Rovi does', LOL at you... Rovi is asbolutely massive, Rovi purchased TV Guide, not the other way around.
And also, Rovi provides the album and artist reviews on Zune, I use it all the time.
Posted: 2011-08-01 @ 3:15pm PT
Rovi was an APP that was on the Samsung BD player. Had no idea what purpose it served so I called the main office in NYC. They didn't know what in hell the APP did! Rovi was finally bought by TV Guide last year. No one knows what Rovi does!! LOL