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Sonicblue wins patent for DVR technology

The consumer electronics maker receives a U.S. patent for portions of its digital video recording technology used in TV set-top boxes.

Sonicblue has received a U.S. patent for portions of its digital video recording technology used in TV set-top boxes, the consumer electronics maker said Monday.

The company said the patent contains "50 claims describing fundamental properties for implementing" a digital video recorder (DVR), which allows viewers to customize TV viewing by automatically recording shows on a computer hard drive for playback at a later time.

"The broad patent covers the fundamental concept of using a program guide or other user-specified criteria to select TV shows for recording on a digital video recorder," said the company, whose DVR is marketed under the ReplayTV brand.

The patent also covers methodology that creates, names, prioritizes and manages recorded programs on a DVR hard drive.

Sonicblue and rival TiVo are racing to establish themselves as the premiere providers of this kind of video recording technology, in anticipation of an expected rise in demand for DVRs.

They also hope that consumer electronics companies will license the patents for use in other devices. Toward that end, TiVo in October signed a licensing pact with Japan's Sony that would allow Sony to build TiVo's digital recording technology into consumer electronics devices such as camcorders and DVD players.

Both TiVo and Sonicblue face competition from software giant Microsoft, which offers its own DVR service through UltimateTV.

With ReplayTV, "we created a user friendly way for viewers to record the shows they want to watch through a graphical on-screen program guide. The patent establishes that ReplayTV invented this core technology," said Sonicblue's Anthony Wood, whom the company says is the inventor of the technology.

Last week, Sonicblue began shipping its new DVR, despite opposition from major TV networks, which claim the device violates copyright laws and robs them of revenue by allowing viewers to skip commercials.

The set-top device allows consumers to bypass commercials during playback of recorded shows. It also allows programs to be distributed to other ReplayTV owners.

Story Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.