Gemstar Fires Patent Suit at Digeo

Gemstar-TV Guide International hasn't lost that litigious feeling: On Oct. 13, the interactive-TV company filed a federal patent-infringement lawsuit against media-center manufacturer Digeo, claiming it refused to license two of Gemstar's interactive program guide patents.

Gemstar said it decided to sue Digeo after the companies failed to reach a licensing agreement. Digeo, meanwhile, had filed an antitrust suit against Gemstar on Sept. 28.

“Digeo's refusal to negotiate a patent license with us and its decision to file suit against us left us no option except to pursue legal remedies to protect the value of our intellectual property,” Stephen Kay, Gemstar's general counsel, said in a statement.

Gemstar claims Digeo, which is backed by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, infringes on two U.S. patents owned by Gemstar: “Interactive Program Guide Navigator Menu System” and “User Interface for Television Schedule System,” issued in 2001 and 2002, respectively.

Diego director of corporate communications Jodie Cadieux said the company had not seen a copy of the complaint and could not comment on it.

In a statement Cadieux sent to Multichannel News, the company said: “Digeo disagrees with a reported statement by a Gemstar executive claiming that Gemstar's lawsuit was the result of Digeo's alleged refusal to negotiate. It was Gemstar that demanded anti-competitive licensing terms and refused to provide meaningful options to Digeo.”

In its antitrust suit, Digeo claimed it asked Gemstar to license a “subset” of that company's 249 IPG-related patents but that Gemstar demanded it license the entire portfolio.

The spat recalls similar IPG lawsuits Gemstar filed between 1999 and 2003, which were subsequently settled, against various companies including EchoStar Communications, Pioneer Electronics and Scientific Atlanta.

“Gemstar has been aggressive with litigation regarding its [intellectual property],” said Adi Kishore, director of global media and entertainment at the Yankee Group.

“For many years, they would threaten to sue virtually any guide vendor out there and were quite successful in protecting what became more or less a monopoly,” Kishore said.

Gemstar, in its complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, also named as a defendant cable operator Charter Communications, which uses Digeo's Moxi interactive program guides.

Charter, owned by Allen, declined to comment.