Macrovision's EPG Lawsuit against Virgin Media to Be Heard in English High Court this Week

An EPG-related patent-infringement lawsuit, filed by the then-Gemstar-TV Guide (which is now part of Macrovision) and its subsidiaries, StarSight Telecast and United Video Properties, against UK cable operator, Virgin Media, and its subsidiary, Virgin Media Payments, back in January, 2008, is scheduled to be heard in the English High Court this week. In its complaint, Macrovision, which claims to have over 200 issued and pending patents covering the UK, alleges that Virgin Media is infringing upon three of its European patents--EP (UK) 0969662, EP (UK) 1377049, and EP (UK) 1613066--which cover such areas as techniques for providing EPG's and for handling recordings from EPG's (note: abstracts and some diagrams for the patents are below). "We have worked diligently to license Virgin Media for their distribution of various set-top boxes that contain IPG's covered by our patents, but negotiations did not lead to a resolution," Samir Armaly, who is now Macrovision's SVP of worldwide patent licensing, said in a prepared statement, issued when the lawsuit was initially filed. "The substantial value of our European patent portfolio has been recognized by leading service providers, as well as leading consumer electronics manufacturers, in the UK and throughout Europe. While we would have preferred to reach a commercial solution with Virgin Media, we ultimately have a responsibility to our shareholders, licensees, and other stakeholders to protect the value of our intellectual property." When the suit was first filed, it was dismissed by Virgin Media as "without merit" and "a piece of flagrant opportunism."

The abstracts of the three patents at issue are as follows:

EP0969662: "An electronic program guide comprising: television program listings, each listing including title, telecast time, and channel, a time and channel grid guide (24) in which some of the television program listings are displayed, a moveable cursor (32) for selectively highlighting one of the television program listings displayed in the grid guide, means for changing the time and channel grid guide (24) into a single channel guide (58) of the channel of a highlighted television program listing."

EP1377049: "Screen (10) for a user interface of a television schedule system and process consists of an array (24) of irregular cells (26), which vary in length, corresponding to different program lengths of one half to one-and-one half hours or more. Because of the widely varying length of the cells (26), if a conventional cursor used to select a cell location were to simply step from one cell to another, the result would be abrupt changed in the screen (10). By restricting cursor movements to the regular cells, abrupt screen changes will be avoided. A conventional offset shadow (34) which is a black bar underlines the entire cell and wraps around the right edge of the cell. To tag the underlying position which defines where the cursor (32) is and thus, where it will move next portions (36) of the black bar outside the current underlying position are segmented, while the current position is painted solid."

EP1613066: "A method for transferring recorded programs using an interactive television program guide implemented on user television equipment, the method comprising displaying in a display screen at least one program listing related to at least one program enabling a user to select a program listing from the at least one displayed program listing recording the program related to the at least one displayed program listing on a digital storage device; displaying at least one recorded program listing for at least one program recorded on the digital storage device, wherein the at least one recorded program listing includes a recorded program listing for the program recorded on the digital storage device; enabling the user to select the recorded program listing to transfer the recorded program from the digital storage device to a secondary storage device; and transferring the recorded program from the digital storage device to a secondary storage device."

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