Rovi Sues IMDb Over Online TV Guide Patents

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Rovi Corp. appears to be making a play to get some leverage in the electronic TV guide market. The company has filed its second patent lawsuit in the last three months, this one against Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) and its IMDb subsidiary. The suit, field in a Delaware federal court, argues that the online TV guides on IMDb TV infringe five of Rovi’s patents. Rovi-until recently known as Macrovision-acquired Gemstar-TV Guide back in 2008, and all of the patents in this lawsuit appear to have been originally owned by Gemstar subsidiaries.

Rovi claims it has licensed this group of patents, which all relate to electronic program guides, to “many leading video providers” in both traditional and new media. According to the complaint, those licensees include Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), Cisco (NSDQ: CSCO), Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA), DirecTV (NYSE: DTV), Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), Samsung, Sony (NYSE: SNE), Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), Verizon, and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO). It isn’t clear whether those deals are pure patent-licensing deals or part of larger business deals; nor is it clear whether they involved the threat of litigation.

The company also claims it initiated patent-licensing discussions with Amazon in 2009, but the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement.

IMDb’s business of organizing data about movies and television shows appears to be a competitor to the Rovi Video business that these patents are meant to protect. Rovi Video “provides standardized, structured data on more than 3 million TV shows, movies, and sports,” according to the lawsuit.

This is the second patent suit Rovi has filed in recent months. The first, which was also over electronic program guides, was filed in October against Toshiba. In that suit, Rovi alleges that Toshiba-produced TVs and DVRs that Rovi claims infringe three of its patents. (The patents are different than the ones being used in the suit against Amazon.)

A Rovi spokeswoman had no comment on the suit except to say: “Rovi has a history of defending its patent position.”

»  Read Rovi v. Amazon et al. Patent Complaint [PDF]

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