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Macrovision DRM patents challenge fails

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It's not completely over yet, but it appears that Macrovision's challenge to the core Intertrust DRM patents, is now likely to fail. The United States Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences issued a ruling last week that concluded that key InterTrust patents have priority over the Macrovision claims.

A few years ago Macrovision bought a handful of patents from a bankrupt European company and realized that many of the filing dates had date precedence over Intertrust's core trust chain patents in digital rights management. Subsequently the company filed an interference suit. Interference suits are filed on the basis that one patent is very similar to another and only one company can own the patents so the courts have to decide which.

US law recognizes the company that first invented a particular technology but elsewhere the date that a patent application filed is the key date.

Macrovision made statements this week that it believes that although the court finding was adverse, it still reckons that it owns the key DRM patents in many countries outside of the US.

Macrovision said, "This is an ongoing process with other portions of the interference action still under review by the Panel. The InterTrust interference action has no bearing on patents outside the US and our essential international DRM patent applications are proceeding to issuance in Europe and Japan, unaffected by the outcome of the US patent interference action.

Bill Krepick, Macrovision CEO, said that Macrovision would consider its appeal options and said "Macrovision intend to introduce a licensing program based upon our international DRM patents as well as on those portions of the US patents subsequently issued."

So far Intertrust has been acting as if it owns all the international DRM patents on its own, and as such is one of the central patent holders within the MPEG LA licensing group that wants to license essential patents for the OMA's mobile DRM system.

If Macrovision is proved right about its international patents, it may well get to share in the payout of what is likely to be one of the world's largest ever royalty pools for DRM on mobile phones.

Sony and Philips jointly acquired Intertrust in 2002 for over $450m but were repaid when Microsoft was made to agree a $440m pay out to license its technology. It was then that Macrovision filed its patent interference suit.

Copyright © 2005, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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