Blockbuster: Netflix patents are baseless

As companies face off, Blockbuster lawyer says rival obtained patents deceptively to monopolize online movie rentals.

Internet video rental company Netflix's legal claims against rival Blockbuster are based on "unenforceable patents," Blockbuster said in a counterclaim filed on Tuesday.

In a bid to shut down its online service, Netflix had sued Blockbuster, the leading movie and game rental company. But Dallas-based Blockbuster on Tuesday said the lawsuit is based on patents that Netflix obtained deceptively in a bid to monopolize online rentals.

In an April lawsuit, Netflix accused Blockbuster of starting its online service in 2004 despite knowing that the service infringed a Netflix patent.

"There is nothing original about renting movies or subscription rental programs," Blockbuster lawyer Marshall Grossman said, noting that both were widely practiced long before any such invention by Netflix.

"(That is) like a fast-food restaurant trying to patent selling hamburgers through a drive-through window," he added.

The claims filed by Blockbuster against Netflix also allege that Netflix failed to inform the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office of previous patents and previous business methods of other companies. Blockbuster said Netflix has admitted that it was aware of the prior patents of another company, which had already put Netflix on notice about possible patent infringement.

Responding to Blockbuster's charges, Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey said the company has filed its claims on the matter and will vigorously defend its patents.

"It is up to the courts to decide," he said.

Shares of Blockbuster slipped 13 cents, or about 2.8 percent, to $4.56 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Netflix shares rose 35 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $27.43.

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