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TiVo plans to start defending its intellectual property

The company is beefing up its legal staff and asserting that it has developed some of the key technologies that allow TV broadcasts to be stored on a hard drive.

Faced with a new wave of skeptics and competitors, TiVo is beefing up its legal staff and asserting that it has developed some of the key technologies that allow TV broadcasts to be stored on a hard drive.

TiVo wants to dispel what it sees as a myth held by competitors and some in the financial world that anyone can add a hard drive to a set-top box and thus put TiVo out of business. San Jose, Calif.-based TiVo sells a service to consumers that allows them to record TV programs onto a hard drive.

"There is quite a bit of technology that went into marrying a hard drive and a service," TiVo spokeswoman Rebecca Baer said Tuesday. "It's not just about storing content on a hard drive."

Historically, TiVo has competed against ReplayTV, which offers a similar service. The actual units that do the recording, known as digital video recorders, are made by consumer electronics companies such as Sony, Philips Electronics and Panasonic.

But several other companies, including Microsoft, have said they plan to offer digital video recording on set-top boxes without using either TiVo or ReplayTV's service.

TiVo chief financial officer David Courtney said last week that developing and protecting its intellectual property has become a core part of the company's business strategy.

"We are filing patents frequently based on our work, and we are keeping very close tabs on anyone claiming to provide competitive services," Courtney said. Courtney would not comment directly on whether the company believes any particular competitor is infringing on TiVo's intellectual property.

On Tuesday, TiVo named Matthew Zinn as general counsel. Zinn will work with another in-house lawyer already focusing on patent and trademark issues. Zinn, who came to TiVo from cable company MediaOne, will also work as the company's chief privacy officer to implement TiVo's policy that outlines the types of information the boxes collect on both an individual and an aggregate basis.

Although TiVo has applied for a number of patents, the three granted thus far are fairly narrow and relate to remote controls.

Other companies have made litigation a mainstay of their businesses amid difficulty in getting the industry to adopt their technology, notably memory chip designer Rambus.

Rambus has asserted that its patents cover not only the next-generation memory standard it developed but also a competing technology that uses its intellectual property. Some memory makers have agreed to pay Rambus royalties for both types of memory, while others, such as Micron Technology, are challenging Rambus in court.