San Jose, Calif.-based TiVo said EchoStar's technology violates its "multimedia time warping system" patent, which it received in May 2001 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Some set-top boxes used with EchoStar's satellite service come with DVR capabilities.
Defending its patents are crucial to TiVo, which has been emphasizing its licensing business as a complement to its services operations. The company counts major consumer electronics makers such as Pioneer, Sony and Toshiba as licensees.
"We've invested in building a comprehensive patent portfolio to protect our intellectual property, and as the DVR category grows, we will be aggressive in protecting those assets," TiVo CEO Mike Ramsay said in a statement. "The success of our licensing business clearly demonstrates the value the industry has placed on TiVo's technology. It's important that we protect our IP for TiVo and our licensees."
TiVo is seeking monetary awards and an injunction against future sales of DVRs by EchoStar.
EchoStar representatives declined to comment Monday and said they had not seen the suit.
TiVo has a partnership agreement with EchoStar rival DirecTV, a deal that contributes significantly to TiVo's revenue.
The patent in question, which TiVo filed for in 1998, is described by the company as an "invention allowing the user to store selected television broadcast programs while the user is simultaneously watching or reviewing another program." TiVo has been awarded 40 patents and has more than 100 applications pending, according to the company.
The suit was filed in a federal district court in Texas.
TiVo may also be experiencing competition in the DVR market from cable provider Comcast, which in early December said it planned to add TiVo-like features to its service by the end of 2004, using Motorola set-top boxes.