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Microsoft sues TiVo in AT&T solidarity play

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Microsoft has sued TiVo. Why? Because TiVo sued AT&T. Not to mention some allegations of patent infringement.

Dow Jones reports that Microsoft filed suit against the leading DV recorder manufacturer late Tuesday in the US federal court. Redmond claims that in displaying programming information, TiVo illegally uses technology from Microsoft's Mediaroom.

Microsoft currently licenses Mediaroom to AT&T for its U-Verse TV service, and it appears that Redmond's suit is in support of AT&T's defense against a TiVo-filed patent-infringement lawsuit of last August. Microsoft had asked the court just last Friday for permission to intervene in that case on AT&T's behalf.

In a nutshell, Tivo sued AT&T, alleging that U-Verse infringes three patents for DV recording. Now, Microsoft has sued TiVo, saying that those patents are actually Microsoft technologies from Mediaroom. Simple, eh?

TiVo disagrees. In a statement released Wednesday, the company said: "Microsoft's recent legal actions, including its decision to seek to intervene on behalf of its customer, AT&T, and its recent complaint against TiVo...do not bear on whether the AT&T products and services that are the subject of TiVo's complaint infringe the patents asserted by TiVo."

More simply put: "What the frickin' frick does Microsoft's complaint have to so with our action against AT&T?"

The answer, most likely, is pressure. By stirring up a hornet's nest of legal troubles for TiVo, the far larger Microsoft can work hand-in-hand with the equally titanic AT&T to strong-arm relatively tiny TiVo into a settlement.

We smell a Microsoft/Tivo licensing agreement coming out of all this, with the AT&T/TiVo suit quietly fading away, perhaps with a token settlement payment tossed like a bone to over-matched TiVo. ®

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